First written: 1/28/2013
“But so they are, incurably timid. It is true that, after they have been reassured and have lost this fear, they are so guileless and so generous with all that they possess, that no one would believe it had they not seen it.”
The previous passage was written by Christopher Columbus to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel of Spain in 1493. The letter details his initial encounters with the people of Juana (Cuba). This passage is striking because it details Columbus’ thoughts of the natives. The text reads like he is sneering while writing each word. I do not know much of the Spanish culture at that time, nor do i know of Columbus’ other experiences with natives during his travels, but it feels like he expected some sort of battle or waging of war. It’s almost like he wanted it.
Columbus would go on to say, at some point in his letter, that he believed the natives saw his men and himself as gods. It leads one to believe that is why he thought the natives treated his men and himself with such timid and generous respect. But after reading the works within the five Indian tribes it is easy to see the intent behind the natives and where Columbus’ perception of that could have been misled. The majority of the Indian stories viewed travelers with great respect because of the feats of strength and the perceived enlightenment in those journeys , it would make sense Columbus would misinterpret the way they treated him.