In early August, 1492, Christopher Columbus, an Italian sailor living in Portugal, received sponsorship from Spain and set out with three sailing ships across the Atlantic Ocean. Columbus was searching for a new sea route to Asia because going overland from Europe to Asia was dangerous, and going to Asia by sea, around the Cape of Good Hope off the southern end of the continent of Africa, was a difficult and lengthy voyage.
If the continent that came to be called the Americas – North, Central, and South America – did not exist, Columbus would have spent at least three more months at sea before he landed in Japan or China, his destination. Blessings, there is an American continent, and history records that on October 12, 1492, the great sailor and his ships touched land in the West Indies.
The trip across the ocean was an outstanding feat, but it wasn’t the first. Archaeological/anthropological evidence has shown without a doubt that people from West Africa had voyaged to the Americas before Columbus. When Columbus sailed across the ocean in 1492, one of his ships was under the command of a man, Pedro Alonso Niño, who was the son of a European and an African.
Columbus was the product of a melting pot, the greatest concentration of knowledge in the world at the time. All the knowledge of Africa, Arabia, Asia, and Europe resided in the Iberian Peninsula where he lived. The countries in the Iberian Peninsula, particularly Spain and Portugal, had been dominated for centuries by the Moors of North Africa, who were predominantly Muslim. The Moors brought their knowledge of astronomy, and mathematics, and geography to the Iberian Peninsula. They also brought the compass from China.
The people of Europe had established trade routes to the lands in Asia, from where they got material goods such as silk and different spices, and the wisdom from the great scholars in India and China. It is through this route that the Europeans learned how to make gunpowder, a tool they would harness to dominate the world by warfare.
The people of Europe, especially those who lived on the Iberian Peninsula, also traded with the people of Africa for material goods made of iron and bronze, and they also came away with increased knowledge of medicine, astronomy, and navigation, and a greater appreciation of the arts.
By 1492, when Columbus set sail into uncharted territory, he had all the knowledge of the great mathematicians, cartographers, and navigators of the era. His sails were triangular, a development from Egypt without which he could never have sailed across the ocean.
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain wanted the precious goods from Asia, so they welcomed the prospect of a safer, more economic route. They also wanted to make converts to Christianity (Roman Catholicism). Spain had been dominated by Muslims for more than 700 years, from 711 to 1492, and Spain’s leaders knew the best defense for their faith was to spread it to the far reaches of the earth. Columbus also wanted to spread Christianity.
The people Columbus and the people of Spain met when they landed on Hispaniola naturally led simple lives. They were islanders, and they had neither the resources, the space, nor inclination to establish great cities. The peoples of North America did not make great cities either. They were mostly nomadic, and their core religious belief was that man should live in harmony with the earth, not be disruptive. Both these peoples were destroyed when Columbus and the Europeans came.
The Europeans would encounter great cities on the mainland. The Mayan civilization, which covered much of Central America and parts of Mexico, had declined before the Europeans came. Archaeologists and anthropologists have not yet conclusively determined what caused the scattering of the Maya, but when the Europeans came their cities were covered by the jungle.
The Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru were flourishing when the Europeans came. The capital of the Aztec empire was Tenochtitlán, and from there the emperor commanded hundreds of villages and several million people. The Incas had thousands of miles of roads, suspension bridges, irrigation canals, and large cities. Both these great civilizations were destroyed by the military might of the Europeans, and the terrible diseases they brought.
Over the next five hundred plus years the wealth of the Americas, Africa and Asia too, would be transferred to Europe. The peoples of the Americas were forced to mine silver and gold, and these were transported over sea, to Europe. The Europeans used the new wealth to build many ships, which were used to transport more new wealth. These ships would also be used to transport slaves from Africa, to serve on large plantations established by the Europeans in the Americas.
The horrors the children of the Americas went through at the coming of Columbus and the Europeans are well-documented. The strange diseases the Europeans brought decimated the populations of the Americas, including the Maya who inhabited this part of the world. The people of the Americas were put to work in mines to search for silver and gold, for the enrichment of their conquerors. The Europeans, with their superior weapons, took all their lands and drove them to live on reservations and in marginal areas.
The horrors the children of Africa suffered during the eternity of 300 years in slavery have been well- documented. Some estimates are that as many as 15 million Africans were taken into bondage, with hundreds of thousands, millions no doubt, perishing on the hellish, seven/eight-week trip across the ocean. They were sold in the slave markets as if they were cattle or horses, and they slaved in the fields for the enrichment of others. The toll of slavery in physical pain was terrible, but degradation of our ancestors’ minds, their spirits, was probably worse.
Over the 500-plus years since Columbus, the Europeans forcibly acquired the wealth of the Americas, and also of Africa and Asia.
The great boost that the pillaging of the Americas, Africa and Asia too, gave to the European race has not been sufficiently chronicled. The wealth of the Americas, dug out of the ground by native tribes, and the produce of fields tended and harvested by African slaves, went to Europe to be invested in agriculture, military equipment, and universities.
Over the 500-plus years, Europe has blossomed. Most of the famous minds of the past 500 years are European. Of the 1,000 or so Nobel Prize winners, over 600 come from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. The people of Asia — in India, China, and Japan – suffered, but not as greatly as our African/American people did during the last five hundred plus-years, and their scholars are fairly well-represented, 45 of them winning Nobel Prizes. (information on Nobel Prize winners taken from the website Worldatlas.com).
Five hundred plus-years after Columbus came, the peoples of the Americas struggle to take control of their resources and develop their economies. The children of the African slaves seek reparation, seek for the European world to acknowledge the truth, and they struggle to free themselves from the shackles on their minds after the injustices visited on our ancestors.