Happy Columbus Day

Sorry for the delay. Happy Columbus Day, compliments of Oliver Cowdery and the early Latter Day Saints:

In perusing the history of the first introduction of the Spaniards into South America and the Mexicos, the heart of the philanthropist must shrink at those scenes of inhumanity to which they had recourse to deprive the aborigines of their country and precious metals.

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[Oliver Cowdery], “Reflections for the Fourth of July, 1834,” The Evening and the Morning Star 2, no. 22 (July 1834): 173.

Comments

  1. Kudos to Oliver for recognizing that Columbus was a butcher. This ought to be taught in schools.

  2. AHLDuke,

    I think that Oliver Cowdery’s comments may have more to do with the later Spanish campaigns against the Aztecs and Incas, rather than Columbus specifically. Columbus was no paragon of virtue either, but it’s not a stretch to say that if Columbus was inspired, his vision was abused on his later voyages, and grossly perverted by those who came after him.

  3. Adam Greenwood says:

    The early saints shared the Leyenda Negra of the Brits, the perfidious Dons and all that. I’m glad we’re now in a position to have a more mature view of the Catholic Church, the Middle Ages, and of Columbus. Columbus Day was important in incorporating italian Americans into the country. Its not that important now but there’s no particular reason to use it as a 24-hour hate either.

  4. Peter LLC says:

    Columbus Day was important in incorporating italian Americans into the country

    Were there any italians in the US in 1792 when it was first observed?

  5. Columbus was operating under a social paradigm where non-whites were somewhat lower than human. Though this does not excuse the rapes and other abuses that the native people suffered at the hands of him and his men, we should try to judge him with an eye to what his understanding was at the time. We could also say that Paul was a misogynist, but most members of the church fall over themselves in a rush to aver that all that crap about women keeping silent in the church and giving reverence to their husbands apply to his social standards.

    Now as for Cortes and Pizarro, I have full confidence that they’re currently in an uncomfortably hot place right now..

  6. BTW, I think we should have a Leif Eriksson day instead. :-)

  7. Peter LLC says:

    Actually, a better question would be, Was there an Italy for italians to be from in 1792 when Columbus Day was first observed?

  8. If I had to guess, I’d say Columbus was inspired by God, and then later committed grievous sins. I have vague recollections of a passage written about him pleading God for forgiveness late in life for the evil he had done.

    On the other hand, there is a compelling evidence that his discovery of America was a profoundly spiritual accomplishment. Here’s Welch discussing Pauline Watts’ article “Prophecy and Discovery: On the Spiritual Origins of Christopher Columbus’s ‘Enterprise of the Indies,’ ” American Historical Review (February 1985)

    In her article, Watts investigates the spiritual origins of Columbus’s voyages. She discusses the influences of scripture, theology, astrology, apocalypticism, and medieval prophecy. She particularly focuses on a book that Columbus himself was writing but never completed, called Book of Prophecies (the fragments were first edited by Cesare De Lollis in 1894). In this book Columbus set forth views on himself as the fulfiller of biblical prophecies! Columbus saw himself as fulfilling the “islands of the sea” passages from Isaiah and another group of verses concerning the conversion of the heathen. Watts reports that Columbus was preoccupied with “the final conversion of all races on the eve of the end of the world,” paying particular attention to John 10:16: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold” (see also 3 Nephi 16:3). He took his mission of spreading the gospel of Christ seriously. “God made me the messenger of the new heaven and the new earth. . . . He showed me the spot where to find it,” Columbus wrote in 1500.

  9. No one in Particular says:

    Much of Latin America has reclaimed this day in a variety of ways; my favorite version is “Día de la raza” in honor of the “fifth” or “cosmic” race (which is the great melting pot of the Americas) of Vasconcelos. I celebrate Día de la raza, rather than Colombus Day.

    Oh, and up at Berkeley, it was Indigenous People’s Day. I didn’t object to that one, either.

  10. Columbus himself had a brutal record as a slaver. As to celebrating a day in Columbus’ honor, I’m with Brother Oliver and the Argentine rock group “Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.” In their abosultely great song, “V Centenario” (on Vasos Vacios, a thoroughly great album) they sing:

    “El V centenario, no hay nada que festejar
    latinoamericano descorazonado
    hijo bastardo de colonias asesinas
    cinco siglos no son para fiesta
    celebrando la matanza indigena

    Cuantos estandartes en las carabelas
    cruzando oceanos ,la decadencia
    hispanoamerica se viste de fiesta
    celebrando la matanza indigena

    Juventud de America, no debemos festejar
    colonia imperialista tenida de sangre
    sangre nativa, sangre de la tierra

    Donde el indio nacio y no pudo conservar
    donde el indio murio y crecio suenos de libertad
    No hay nada que festejar!!”

  11. Thanks so much, Stirling. Got a Urim and Thummim handy? I generally try now to hide my sarcastic streak, but a translation for a comment like that would be nice.

  12. From what I can decipher, a literal translation would not be appropriate for this site.

  13. If it ain’t appropriate in English, it ain’t appropriate in any other language.

  14. No one in Particular says:

    timshel: Don’t be scared by the word ‘bastardo,’ just render it ‘illegitimate son’ if it bothers you. That’s the context anyway. At any rate, I don’t see these lyrics as being any ‘less appropriate’ than the quote that the thread began with, just a bit more specific about what those ‘inhumanities’ are. Nothing really graphic there.
    Ray: When I have some time this evening I’ll translate it if no one else has and if you really want to know. It boils down to: ‘Colonials killing Indians is nothing to be proud of.’ To some degree or another every Latin American rock band worth its salt has some song(s) or album saying the same.

  15. That’s cool, NoiP. If the only issue is the proper use of the word “bastard”, I have no problem with it whatsoever. Also, if the message can be summed up as you have condensed it, I agree completely with the song.

  16. I’ve not taken translation, so I’m not sure exactly how to reformat some of the lines, but here’s the basic gist of what it says, aligned with the original lines:

    “El V centenario, no hay nada que festejar
    latinoamericano descorazonado
    hijo bastardo de colonias asesinas
    cinco siglos no son para fiesta
    celebrando la matanza indigena

    The 500th Anniversary, there is nothing to celebrate,
    disheartened latin america
    bastard son of assassin colonists
    five centuries are not for a party
    celebrating the murder of the indigenous


    Cuantos estandartes en las carabelas
    cruzando oceanos ,la decadencia
    hispanoamerica se viste de fiesta
    celebrando la matanza indigena

    How many standards in the ships
    crossing the oceans, the decadence
    hispanicamerican is dressed in the party
    celebrating the murder of the indigenous


    Juventud de America, no debemos festejar
    colonia imperialista tenida de sangre
    sangre nativa, sangre de la tierra

    Youth of America, we should not celebrate
    an imperalist colony full of blood,
    native blood, blood of the earth


    Donde el indio nacio y no pudo conservar
    donde el indio murio y crecio suenos de libertad
    No hay nada que festejar!!”

    Where the indian was born and couldn’t stay
    Where the indian died and from which grew dreams of liberty,
    There is nothing to celebrate!

    I don’t see the usage of “bastard” as problematic in this case.

  17. Adam Greenwood says:

    That’s pretty self-loathing. Or, if they think of themselves as puros indios, pretty loathing of their countrymen.

  18. As aluded to in the previous post, for those interested, you can hear a snippet of the song here.

  19. Oops. Alluded.

  20. Hey, thanks for the music! Nice rhythm (words were too fast for me to understand, so it’s nice to see they lyrics).

  21. Perdóname says:

    (#18:) That’s pretty self-loathing.

    Adam, do you mean to suggest that an expression of regret for a past act(such as genocide) is wrong or otherwise unadvisable?

  22. Cowdery seemed to harbor the belief that Columbus was, in some respects, inspired by God.

    “[C]ertain it is, that a peculiar providence was manifest from the first discovery of this continent, to the period when this nation became independent. This can be demonstrated from facts, and clearly shown to the mind susceptible of light, and willing to admit an overruling Hand in every act of nations to bring about great and important events in the future happiness of man.

    Why, it might be asked, was not this continent discovered to eastern nations previous to the year 1492? great boast is made of the arts and learning of the Egyptians, of the wisdom and science of the Greeks and Romans, and to this day a continual strife is made to copy in the train of these nations, and equal their learning and refinement. The Egyptians could astonish the universe for centuries with their knowledge of embalming their dead, of concealing their arts in mystical characters of hieroglyphics, and cause creation to wonder at their unparalleled power in piling rocks into huge masses as monuments of their industery [industry] and extravigance [extravagance], and yet their knowledge of the extent of this globe be limited to a little narrow space, on which they were born, figured so wonderfully, and at last laid their bones with those of their fathers upon the same.

    Greece could rise by transmitting to her shores the instructions she received from Egypt as a mother, and cause generations to gaze on her works of art and sculpture, men of intelligence to strive to equal her in wisdom and march in her train of philosophy; leave ruined cities and decayed temples as specimens of her vain ambition, for men of after years to admire with astonishment, and yet fall to the ground, after speculating upon the system of creation sufficiently to draw the world in her course, and yet her knowledge be as limited as the former.

    Rome could rise on the ruins of Greece, exist century after century filled with riches and luxury, render herself famous for her power, conquer the east with her arms, and transmit her laws to after nations, with a great share of her profligacy, and sink at last into ruin without being able to soar over the vast deep and discover another world to poison with her wickedness-That was left for after ages, and the honor to be given to a future generation, though Italy may boast of raising the favored city which gave birth to the man who, by the immediate inspiration of heaven, conceived the idea of the existence of another earth. Fourteen hundred and ninety two years from the birth of the Saviour [Savior], one thousand and sixteen from the fall of the Roman Empire in the west, and thirty nine from its extinction in the east, had collapsed, before the nations of the eastern continent were favored with this knowledge. One wave might have overwhelmed his little bark and consigned this adventurer to the deep; and without a spirit equal to the first, another man might not have been found to hazard his all upon this dangerous experiment, and so the plan remain forever without being undertaken again-but the time had arrived, and wisdom in the Author of the world made it expedient for this treasure to be disclosed! Why not Egypt have this honor? or why not Greece study out by her philosophy the power of the great BALANCE, and transmit to mankind this important blessing? Why not Rome, proud mistress of the eastern world, unfold the secret which was to make so many millions a resting place and a covert from the tempest? The short answer is, the time had not arrived, and with all their intelligence these nations were limited to territory, and though their genius were fertile in innumerable arts, yet they never touched upon the great and important thought of leading their children into an almost boundless region, where nature, with her luxuriant mantle had thrown around the blessings of the earth in the fullest abundance!”

    “Reflections for the Fourth of July 1834”

  23. Justin, I wonder if Cowdery ever read the Book of Mormon.

  24. No one in Particular says:

    18. Adam: I don’t think it’s self-loathing, and I’d bet my bottom dollar that they don’t think of themselves as ‘puros indios.’ The prevailing identity of Latin America (not counting a few very indigenous zones still hanging around) is that of the mestizo. They aren’t too keen on Europe the way a lot of white folks from the US might not be too keen on the slavery of Confederate South. I don’t have to be black to feel like it was an affront. If you wanted to be kind, you could call it insightful social commentary.

    PS If you want more Church-relevance to this post, feel free to substitute my national example with something in church history that you don’t feel particularly proud of.

  25. Justin, I think Cowdery believed that Columbus was inspired, as was common for both Mormons and non-Mormon whites. Simultaneously he was repulsed by the horrid treatment of natives. I think he believed you could have one without the other, perhaps naively.

    In a similar vein, Phelps and others lauded the concentration of the Indians on the western frontier as the “gathering of Israel” even while they decried white terrorism against the Indians.

    They seemed to have a selective mode of viewing the interactions that allowed them to segment white crimes from what they thought of as the hand of God.

Trackbacks

  1. […] of the Los Fabulosos Cadillacs song “V Centenario” for comments 11-17 on SMB’s Happy Columbus blog. I saved it at a fairly low quality (48 b) so it wouldn’t use too much bandwidth. So, […]