October 12thPosted: October 29, 2013
Versión en castellano aquí
Detail of Conquest and Subjugation, by Diego Rivera
Eduardo Galeano says, about October 12th and the ‘discovery’ of America:
Did Cristopher Columbus discover America in 1492? Or did the Vikings discover it before him? And before the Vikings? Those who lived there, didn’t they exist?
The official History says that Vasco Núñez de Balboa was the first man to see, from a peak in Panama, both oceans. Those who lived there, were they blind?
Who put the first names to corn and potato and tomato and chocolate and mountains and the rivers of America? Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro? Those who lived there, were they mute?
We were told, and we are still told, that the pilgrims from Mayflower populated America.
Was America empty?
Since Columbus didn’t understand what they said, he thought they couldn’t speak.
Since they walked naked, they were calm and give everything in exchange for nothing, he thought they weren’t reasonable people.
And since he was sured to have arrived to the East throught the back door he thought they were Indians from the India.
After that, during his second trip, the admiral dictated a statement establishing that Cuba was part of Asia. The document from the 14th June 1494 set evidence that the crew of his three ships recognized so, and those who said the opposite would be punished with a hundred lashes, a fine of ten thousand maravedíes and would have their tongue cut. The notary, Hernán Pérez de Luna, subscribed it. And the seamen who knew how to sign, signed.
The conquerors demanded of America to be what it wasn’t.
They didn’t see what they saw, but what they wanted to see: the fountain of youth, the city of gold, the realm of the emeralds, the country of cinnamon.
And they portrayed the Americans as they had before imagined the pagans from the East.
Cristopher Columbus saw, in the coast of Cuba, mermaids with a man’s face and a rooster’s feathers, and new that not far from there, men and women would have tails.
In the Guyana, according to sir Walter Raleigh, there was people with eyes in the shoulders and the mouth in the chest.
In Venezuela, according to Brother Pedro Simón, there was Indians with ears so big they dragged them all over the floor.
In the Amazon river, according to Cristóbal de Acuña, the native have the feet upside down, with the heels in the front and the toes in the back, and according to Pedro Marín de Anglería women cut on of their breast off to shoot their arrows better.
Anglería, who wrote the first History of America but who never went there, also assured that in the New World there was people with tails, as Columbos told, and that their tails were so long they could only sit on seats with holes in them.
The Black Code forbade torturing slaves in the French colonies. But it was not for torturing, but for educating, that the masters lashed their black slaves and cut their tendons when they ran.
The laws of the Indias were moving, as they protected the Indians in the Spanish colonies. But the pillory and the gallows stuck in the center of every town square were even more moving.
The reading of the Requirement was very convincing. Before the assault of every village, it would explain the Indians that God had arrived to the world and had left his place to Saint Peter, and that Saint Peter had the Saint Father as his heir, and that the Saint Father had given all that land to the Queen of Castilla, and that for that reason they had to leave or pay a tribute in gold, and that in the case of denial or delay they would suffer war and they would be turned into slaves, and so would be their wives and children.
But this obedience requirement was red in the mountains, at night, in Spanish and without an interpreter, in the presence of the notare and of none of the Indians, because the Indians slept some miles away, and had no idea of what was coming.
Until not long ago, October 12th was the Day of the Race. But, is there really such thing? What is race, apart from a useful lie to squeeze and exterminate the neighbor?
In 1942, when the United States entered the World War II, the Red Cross of that country decided that black blood would not be admitted in their blood banks. That way, they prevented that the mixing of the races, forbidden in bed, was done through injections.
Has someone ever seen black blood?
After, the Day of the Race became the Day of the Encounter. Are colonial invasions encounters? Yesterday’s or today’s, are they encounters? Shouldn’t we call them violations instead?
Maybe, the most revealing episode in the history of America took place in 1563, in Chile. The Small Fort of Arauco was besieged by the Indians, who had no water and no food, but captain Lorenzo Bernal refused to surrender. From the fence, he shouted:
‘We will be more every day!’
‘With what women?’, asked the Indian chief.
‘With yours. We will make them children who will be your masters’.
The invaders called cannibals to ancient Americans, but the Cerro Rico of Potosí was even more of a cannibal. Its mouths ate Indian meet to feed the capitalist development of Europe. And they called them idolizing, because they believed that natured is sacred and that we’re brothers and sisters of everything that has legs, wings or roots.
And they called them savages. In this, at least, they weren’t wrong. So uncouth were the Indians that they ignored they had to demand a visa, a good behavior certificate and a working permit to Columbus, Cabral, Cortés, Alvarado, Pizarro and the pilgrims from Mayflower.