Happy ... Indigenous Peoples Day?!?!

... also known as Columbus Day. It's weird, when you look back five hundred years to the time of Christopher Columbus, to see what factors led up to his "discovery" of the "new world".

Most of the factors seem very familiar to us in the fall of 2001. Religious fanaticism, not unlike the Jihad that the United States is currently involved in with the al Qaeda terrorist group and Afghanistan's own Taliban government, was a deciding factor of Columbus' voyage in 1492.

Of course this only reinforces my theory that organized religion is the biggest blight on the history of the world.

It all goes back to 756. Yes, the year 756, twelve and a half centuries ago, a full seven centuries before Columbus. It was then that Moorish Muslims captured the Iberian Peninsula in Spain and set up camp there. But at that time everything was cool. Amazingly for hundreds of years Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in peace. Then during the 12th century, Muslim fanatics in Spain started to persecute those of differing faiths. Soon the Christians and Muslims were at war, known as The Reconquista.

Not long after, in the year 1215, Pope Innocent III and the Fourth Lateran Council in Rome also started sanctioning action against Jews and Muslims. Across Europe the Jewish population was exiled - including from England, France and Germany.

But Spain was different. Because of the Reconquista, the Muslims and Christians were much too busy to notice the Jews. Jews continued to live, work and play in Spain without many problems.

Until 1492.

That's when the last Muslims were driven out of Granada, the final stronghold of the Moors. Spain was united under Queen Isabelle of Castile and King Ferdinand of Argon, and was now a strong warrior people, ardently Catholic. Slowly they had been persecuting Jews, but now their full attention could be focused on it. On March 31, 1492 the Edict of Expulsion (also known as the Alhambra Decree) was signed, effectively telling the Jews to convert to Christianity or leave the country forever.

Many Jews "converted" to Christianity, still practicing their own religion on the sly. But even more left - some say anywhere from 100,000 to 800,000 were exiled to the Ottoman Empire.

Additionally, after the seven century war was over, the Spaniards found they had more time and money to dedicate to international trade and commerce.

At this time the failure of the Crusades to rid the world of the Turks closed the land routes to the Indies, cutting off the supply of gold, jewels, silks and spices. Thus an increasing interest in finding sea-routes circumnavigating Africa heading eastward to the Indies was born.

For in the 15th century most educated Europeans were aware that the earth was round, but still assumed that the only continents that existed were Europe, Africa and Asia (which they called the Indies). They also believed that there was one great 'Ocean Sea' still referred to at that time by its Arabic name, the 'Sea of Darkness'. They had no knowledge of the Americas or the Pacific Ocean.

Columbus' plan was simple, sail westward across the Sea of Darkness to the Indies. No doubt the sailors were spooked, legends told of the ocean's profound darkness, high waves, dangerous winds, many storms and frightening monsters. But they went anyway. The three ships left on August 3, and landed in the Bahamas on October 11.

Interestingly enough there was no religious representative onboard those first ships. I guess they didn't expect to find new land, so why bother?

The first documented visit of a Catholic priest to North America was later, much later - 1521. In fact, Ponce de Leon's trip to Florida was commissioned to take land from natives and convert them to Christianity. Sailing from Puerto Rico to the mainland, however, the ships were repelled by the natives and the mission was aborted.

No doubt those natives soon faced the wrath of the European settler. It's estimated that 100 million indigenous peoples were killed in the Western Hemisphere due to the European settlement. Whole civilizations were lost, never to be recorded.

All in the name of God.

Kinda silly, isn't it?

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Last Updated on: October 08, 2001

© 2001-2004 Joshua Paul Edwards

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