The discovery of America. A new world. A new life. New opportunities. That's the story everyone knows. But let's do a little history lesson for the ones who didn't listen carefully in class.
America was discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus, an Italian navigator and explorer, basically working for the Spanish Crown of Castilla y Léon. When he eventually arrived, he thought he had just discovered India. Silly him. Let's be understanding though, they didn't have Google Maps back in the 15th century. Anyway, Columbus and his pals encountered some guys there they thought were weird but what interested them the most were all the resources and wealth they found in this land. Good news for the King and Queen then.
Nevertheless, let's talk about these “weird guys” for a second. Why weird ? Well, you know. Let's just call it ethnocentrism. Because the discovery of America is more than some dudes claiming the land was now theirs. It's a whole culture that started to eradicate another culture. Let's just imagine this. You're at home, drinking tea while watching The Simpsons when all of a sudden, a bunch of rude people break into your house, raid your fridge and replace The Simpsons by some reality shows, and I'm not talking about your siblings. Well, that's pretty much the same thing. Natives were not only exploited but some of them were even killed while others were brought to the Spanish Crown as slaves. Not very cool. Especially since the settlers were intruders.
The evangelization is another aspect of the colonization that took place. Western societies imposed their culture, their religion, their rules to the Natives, regardless on what THEIR own traditions were. The thing is they were too busy to wonder if Natives had souls so you'll have no trouble to picture them not caring about that. That's an important aspect of the discovery of America that led the country to turn into the most influential society in the world. You may not realize it but today, in Western countries, our lifestyle depends on and is highly influenced by the American's.
Thought I'd share a painting I think perfectly illustrates this idea.
El Encuentro was made by Jaime Zapata in 1992 and represents two men meeting each other : a Native and a settler. The native is holding a plate in his hands and is offering it to the settler. It's where the communication between them is formed but it's also an act of generosity. And that's how we notice a separation between two worlds : the native's world is characterized by nature (trees, butterflies, the moon...), religious faith (geometrical forms), there's a warm atmosphere, an idea of prosperity and peace while the settler's world is dark and creepy. The settler himself is basically a skeleton wearing an armor. The evangelization is represented as well with the cross. But the whole background gives us an impression of death and desperation → the nasty impact that the Western society had on America, deteriorating the purity of nature. In the end, the settlers are the savage ones. As Claude Lévi-Strauss used to say, the savage is the one who believes in savagery in the first place. Beautiful, isn't it ? And oh so true.
America has come a long way. Think of this idea of peaceful and quiet nature being now replaced by a stupid orange man... Well, it's part of history anyway, isn't it ? An interesting one. We learn from our mistakes I guess. Or we try to. But we shouldn't forget the drawbacks of our own lifestyle and history and what these people went through. We shouldn't forget any of this because that's what truly happened and that's how we all got there. Some consider it's one of the greatest things that ever happened, leading to a better life with new opportunies, a good fortune, others remember the dark side of it. Perhaps we should keep them both in mind.
That's it for today, thanks for reading !