Friday, February 10, 2012

Motivation? Gold!

If you ask Google Maps to find the Canary Islands off the Coast of Africa—islands Columbus visited on his way to the “Indies”—and if then you simply pull the map using the mouse from left to right repeatedly, you can experience at first hand the size of the Atlantic without ever getting wet. Columbus took a south-westerly path from there and arrived in the Bahamas. The first island he encountered was San Salvador (his naming), which would also have been the first on his general path. Here he met the Taino, part of the Arawakan peoples mentioned in the last post. Just idly pursuing those people and that language, I also chanced across Columbus’ own diaries, where his first meeting is recorded taking place October 12, 1492. I read on a bit (here is a link). Somehow it soon became dreary, the record of this momentous discovery. Evidently, from Columbus’ own point of view, it had only to do with gold. He wanted to find gold and spices, in that order, with piously murmured asides about the conversion of these friendly heathen to the One True Faith. The diary leaves little doubt about the aims of this voyage of discovery.

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