Yeah, I know what I learned in school, and you know what you learned….
Fact is, though, Columbus never set foot on the North American mainland—strictly speaking, he didn’t “discover” America.
He “discovered” Cuba, Haiti/Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, other islands in the Caribbean, Central American and South America during his four voyages from Europe in 1492-1504.
Strictly speaking, as far as we know, Ponce de Leon was the first European to put a footstep in the sand on an North American shore, in what we now call Florida, in 1513.
….and, strictly speaking, none of the Spanish conquistadores discovered America.
The First Peoples of the American hemisphere got there first.
There were tens of millions of Native Americans in the North, Central and South Americas at the time of the first Spanish contact and conquests. In the Viceroyalty of New Spain—including Florida, the American Southwest, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean—an estimated 25 million indigenous people had already created advanced cultures and civilizations. Perhaps there were a similar number in the South American Empire of the Incas before the advent of the Spaniards. Within 100 years, 95% of these original people of America were dead as a result of war and disease.
The Spanish adventurers did not invade an empty wilderness. They conquered and killed millions of the original inhabitants, and took their riches and their land.
Let’s call it as it was.
Bernard Bailyn, Robert Dallek, David Brion Davis, David Herbert Donald, John L. Thomas and Gordon S. Wood, The Great Republic: A History of the American People, 4th ed. (Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company, 1992), vol. 1, 7-14.
Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014 All rights reserved.