12 October 2015

Columbus Strikes Gold in Haiti - 1499

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen, 1995, Excerpts

In 1499 Columbus made a major gold strike in Haiti, and Spain became the envy of Europe. Columbus and his successors forced hundreds of thousands of Indians to mine the gold for them, raise Spanish food, and even carry them everywhere they went. The Indians couldn’t stand it. Pedro de Cordoba wrote a letter to King Ferdinand in 1517, “As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth. Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery.”

Beyond facts of cruelty, the Spanish disrupted the Indian ecosystem and culture. Forcing Indians to work in mines rather than in their gardens led to widespread malnutrition. The intrusion of rabbits and livestock caused further ecological disaster. Diseases new to the Indians played a role.

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