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The ocean blue ...

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
A reminder of the genocidal maniac who sailed the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria to the Americas and left a wake a death and misery.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Gazing upon the decaying, wooden  replicas of the Pinta and Santa Maria at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science & History in south Texas during a recent visit, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a synchronistic metaphor for the current decay of America at large and its inability to acknowledge the racism and genocide that Columbus embodied.

The now-dry-docked, replica ships (the Nina is at another location in the area) were donated to the museum in 1993 as a gift from Spain to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus Day.

And on the tour, the guide told us that the wooden ships – which you can only look at – had long outlived their usefulness sitting out in the subtropical, south Texas sun, deteriorating for two decades.

In fact, in a story in the Associated Press a year ago noted that the city of Corpus Christi and the museum were wondering what to do with the ships, with the museum owner telling the AP: “They’re dead and they have been an albatross around the museum’s neck for a long time.”

Indeed. The wood is cracked and peeling. It looks like a shipwrecked relic, actually. Perhaps it’s time to dismantle them and throw them on the ash heap of history, along with Columbus and his reputation as a genocidal maniac and active participant in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Yes, Columbus changed history and helped kick off the European “age of exploration” (a.k.a. “age of exploitation”) in search of slaves and gold.

As the late historian Howard Zinn tells us in A People’s History of the United States, quoting a Spanish priest named Bartolome de las Casas: “Total control led to total cruelty. The Spaniards ‘thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades.’ Las Casas tells how ‘two of these so-called Christians met two Indian boys one day, each carrying a parrot; they took the parrots and for fun beheaded the boys.’

And that’s one example of the legacy of evil that Columbus and the Spanish invaders brought upon the Arawak and other peoples of the Caribbean. Statues of Columbus should be ripped down and destroyed like the Iraqis did when Saddam Hussein was toppled.

And yet in this society, we make sure that schoolchildren and the uninformed celebrate Columbus Day each October, not knowing everything about him. In a sing-song voice children refrain: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue …” An ocean, they said, littered with the bodies and remains of those that Columbus destroyed. 

Frankly, the whole visit to see the Pinta and Santa Maria replicas simply depressed me. At the same time, maybe leaving the ships to rot was the best thing to help visitors clue in about what Columbus was really all about.

Regardless, this country still holds on to the myth of Columbus as a peaceful explorer and not “the mascot of American colonialism in the Western Hemisphere,” as Lakota activist Bill Means recently told Minnesota Public Radio after the City of Minneapolis designated Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day. Perhaps we can follow the example of Minneapolis and other cities? Driving back to the house where I was staying, a dust devil appeared in the road …

Right after returning home from Corpus Christi, I synchromystically popped in Bob Dylan’s 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. It was playing as I worked and suddenly “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” comes on – “(T)he funniest thing was / When I was leavin’ the bay / I saw three ships-a-sailin’ / They were all heading my way / I asked the captain what his name was / And how come didn’t drive a truck / He said his name was Columbus / I just said ‘Good luck.’”

And we all know how that story turned out.

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Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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