The discovery of the New World, one of the most important milestones in the history of mankind, is a clear example of this.
We should not be surprised since in the genesis of the expedition there was an atrocious fever for gold. An obsession that would lead the conquerors to massacre a village of unarmed and innocent who delivered their best riches in exchange for mirrors and bells.
The discovery of America took place thanks to the fact that Christopher Columbus was able to convince the Spanish Crown, to finance his trip. The initial aim of the expedition was to find and establish new maritime trade routes to the exotic continent of Asia, the place that Marco Polo had achieved wondrous pieces some centuries ago.
Thanks to the favor of the crown, Christopher Columbus would get 10% of all profits and would be granted the title of Almirante de la Mar Océana.
Thus, just 33 days after their departure in the three ships, he arrived at a place totally unknown by pure accident: The Americas.
October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in the West Indies. There they found a wild and fertile land, inhabited by the Arawak Indians, a people extremely hospitable and generous. In his journal, Columbus wrote the following:
“They were of strong constitution, with bodies well-formed and beautiful features. They do not carry guns, nor the knowledge of it. To teach them about a sword, they took it by the blade and got cut as they did not know what that was. It was magnificent… With fifty men, all subservient, we could do with them what we would like“.
The Arawaks lived in small villages that subsisted mainly on the cultivation of maize, sweet potato, and cassava. They knew weaving and spinning, but they did not know the horse or other animals of tillage. Neither did they know of the existence of iron.
Only wore a few tiny ornaments of gold that adorned her earrings. This small detail caught the attention of Columbus, who did not hesitate to capture some of the natives to force them to lead him to the source of the precious metal.
Accordingly, the first European military base of the American continent was built in Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic). There were 39 men with the mission of finding and storing as much gold as they could.
On his return to Spain, Columbus adorned his experience in order to create enough interest in the king so that they would finance an expedition large enough to subdue the indigenous people.
“Hispaniola is a miracle. Mountains and hills, plains and pastures, are as fertile as they are beautiful. The natural harbors are unbelievably good and there are many broad rivers, most of which contain gold. There are many spices and nine large mines of gold and other metals”.
After gaining the favor of the crown, Columbus sailed back to America with 17 ships and over 1,200 men with a single purpose: to collect gold and slaves.
On his return to Haiti, the bad intentions of the Europeans were already underway and the indigenous people began to hide. Desperate for not finding gold, the crew of Christopher Columbus captured 1,500 Arawaks, regardless of who were women or children.
Of all of them, 500 were sent directly to Spain to be sold as slaves, but only 300 were able to complete the hard journey on a ship.
The rest of the prisoners who remained in the Caribbean were forced to work in inhumane conditions to find gold. Those who were not coming to the rate of precious metals set, suffered the wrath of the settlers and lost their hands.
Any resistance offered by the Arawak was in vain because the Spaniards had armor, swords, and weapons against which nothing could be done.
In just two years, half of the 250,000 Indians who inhabited the area had died from murder, mutilation or suicide.
As described by Howard Zinn in ‘A people’s history of the United States’, in 1515 there were 50.000 indigenous people, by 1550 only 500 Arawaks remained and by 1650, the tribe was completely wiped out. In this way, it was like a whole culture disappeared through the lust for gold of the few.
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