Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vespucci Day

Monday was Columbus Day. Hurray for the New World!

The news of course trotted out the accounts of Columbus bashing in the schools.
TAMPA, Florida (AP) — Christopher Columbus' stature in U.S. classrooms has declined somewhat through the years, and many districts will not observe the explorer's namesake holiday on Monday.
In McDonald, Pennsylvania, 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, fourth-grade students at Fort Cherry Elementary put Columbus on trial this year — charging him with misrepresenting the Spanish crown and thievery. They found him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison.
How nice.

More examples abound, like this tired complaint:
"You don't hear people using the world 'discovery' anymore like they used to. 'Columbus discovers America.' Because how could he discover America if there were already people living here?"
That complaint only makes sense in a multiculturalist context, because for Western Culture, which is my culture that I am not ashamed to defend as a very good and successful one, he DID discover it.

Or did he?
Amerigo Vespucci (born in Florence in 1452), whose name was given to the American continents by Waldsmuller in 1507, worked in Seville (where he died) in the business house which fitted out Columbus' second expedition. Here he gives an account of the first of his own four voyages. If his claims are accurate he reached the mainland of the Americas shortly before Cabot, and at least 14 months before Columbus.
Interesting. But that's not really the issue.

What's the issue is how we hear everyone complain how horrid the Europeans were to come to the pristine, innocent New World, bringing only disease and death to the noble indigenous peoples who were otherwise living in peace and harmony with Mother Nature.

Or were they?

From Vespucci's letter, we read some interesting observations:
Warfare is used amongst them, which they carry on against people not of their own language, very cruelly, without granting life to any one, except (to reserve him) for greater suffering.
and the cause of their wars is not for lust of dominion, nor of extending their frontiers, no for inordinate covetousness, but for some ancient enmity which in by-gone times arose amongst them: and when asked why they made war, they knew not any other reason to give than that they did so to avenge the death of their ancestors, or of their parents:
and so are they stirred up by fellow-feeling: they have no judicial system, nor do they punish the ill-doer: nor does the father, nor the mother chastise the children
and we saw a village of only thirteen houses where there were four thousand souls: every eight or ten years they change their habitations: and when asked why they did so: (they said it was) because of the soil which, from its filthiness, was already unhealthy and corrupted, and that it bred aches in their bodies, which seemed to us a good reason:
When they die, they use divers manners of obsequies, and some they bury with water and victuals at their heads: thinking that they shall have (whereof) to eat: they have not nor do they use ceremonies of torches nor of lamentation. In some other places, they use the most barbarous and inhuman burial, which is that when a suffering or infirm (person) is as it were at the last pass of death, his kinsmen carry him into a large forest, and attach one of those nets, of theirs, in which they sleep, to two trees, and then put him in it, and dance around him for a whole day: and when the night comes on they place at his bolster, water with other victuals, so that he may be able to subsist for four or six days: and then they leave him alone and return to the village: and if the sick man helps himself, and eats, and drinks, and survives, he returns to the village, and his (friends) receive him with ceremony: but few are they who escape: without receiving any further visit they die, and that is their sepulture: and they have many other customs which for prolixity are not related.
they eat little flesh except human flesh: for your Magnificence must know that herein they are so inhuman that they outdo every custom (even) of beasts; for they eat all their enemies whom they kill or capture, as well females as males with so much savagery, that (merely) to relate it appears a horrible thing: how much more so to see it, as, infinite times and in many places, it was my hap to see it: and they wondered to hear us say that we did not eat our enemies: and this your Magnificence may take for certain, that their other barbarous customs are such that expression is too weak for the reality:
we remained 37 days: and went many times to their villages: where they paid us the greatest honour: and (now) desiring to depart upon our voyage, they made complaint to us how at certain times of the year there came from over the sea to this their land, a race of people very cruel, and enemies of theirs: and (who) by means of treachery or of violence slew many of them, and ate them: and some they made captives, and carried them away to their houses, or country: and how they could scarcely contrive to defend themselves from them, making signs to us that (those) were an island-people and lived out in the sea about a hundred leagues away: and so piteously did they tell us this that we believed them: and we promised to avenge them of so much wrong: and they remained overjoyed herewith:
And they went and had their way with the evildoers, with cannon and lance.


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