This Day. Foundation of America

Illustration in Prensa Latina

In Cuba, according to Christopher Columbus, there were mermaids with men’s faces and rooster feathers.

In Guiana, according to Sir Walter Raleigh, there were people with eyes on their shoulders and their mouths on their chests.

In Venezuela, according to Fray Pedro Simón, there were Indians with ears so big that they dragged them on the ground.

In the Amazon River, according to Cristóbal de Acuña, there were natives who had their feet backwards, with their heels forward and their toes back.

According to Pedro Martín de Anglería, who wrote the first history of America but was never there, in the New World there were men and women with tails so long that they could only sit on seats with holes.

American people

The official story goes that Vasco Núñez de Balboa was the first man to see the two oceans from a summit in Panama. Those who lived there, were they blind?

Who gave their first names to corn and potatoes and tomatoes and chocolate and the mountains and rivers of America? Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro? Those who lived there, were they mute?

The pilgrims on the Mayflower heard it: God said America was the Promised Land. Those who lived there, were they deaf?

Later, the grandchildren of those pilgrims from the north seized the name and everything else. Now, Americans are them. Those of us who live in the other Americas, what are we?

Faces and masks

On the eve of the assault on each village, the Requirement of Obedience explained to the Indians that God had come into the world and that he had left Saint Peter in his place and that Saint Peter had the Holy Father as his successor and that the Holy Father had done mercy. to the Queen of Castile of all this land and that for that reason they had to leave here or pay tribute in gold and that in case of refusal or delay war would be waged on them and they would be turned into slaves and also their women and children.

This Requirement was read in the mountains, in the middle of the night, in the Spanish language and without an interpreter, in the presence of the notary and no Indian.

Bacteriological warfare foundation

Deadly was, for America, the embrace of Europe. Nine out of ten natives died.

The smallest warriors were the fiercest. Viruses and bacteria came, like the conquerors, from other lands, other waters, other airs; and the Indians had no defences against that army that advanced, invisible, behind the troops.

The many inhabitants of the Caribbean islands disappeared from this world, leaving no memory of their names, and the plagues killed many more than the many killed by slavery or suicide.

Smallpox killed the Aztec king Cuitláhuac and the Inca king Huayna Cápac, and in Mexico City there were so many victims that, to cover them, their houses had to be turned over.

The first governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop, said that smallpox had been sent by God to clear the ground for his chosen ones. The Indians had the wrong address. The British from the north helped the Most High by giving the Indians, on more than one occasion, smallpox-infected blankets:

“To root out that heinous race,” explained Major Sir Jeffrey Amherst in 1763.

On other maps, the same story

Almost three centuries after Columbus landed in America, Captain James Cook sailed the mysterious southern seas of the East, nailed the British flag in Australia and New Zealand, and opened the way to the conquest of the infinite islands of Oceania.

Because of their white colour, the natives believed that those sailors were dead returned to the world of the living. And by their actions, they knew they were coming back for revenge.

And history repeated itself.

As in America, the newcomers seized the fertile fields and water sources and drove those who lived there into the desert.

And they subjected them to forced labour, as in America, and their memory and customs were forbidden.

As in America, Christian missionaries pulverized or burned pagan stone or wood effigies. A few were saved and were sent to Europe, after amputation of their penises to bear witness to the war against idolatry. The god Rao, who is now exhibited in the Louvre, arrived in Paris with a label that defined him thus: idol of impurity, vice and shameless passion.

As in America, few natives survived. Those who did not fall by exhaustion or bullet, were annihilated by unknown pests, against which they had no defences. 


From the book Mirrors. An Almost Universal Story. Taken from El Viejo Topo.

Reposted from cubaperiodistas.cu/, website of the Union of Journalists of Cuba. A literary giant not merely of Latin America, Eduardo Galeano (1940-2015) was a Uruguayan journalist, writer and novelist. His best known works are Memoria del fuego (Memory of Fire Trilogy, 1986) and Las venas abiertas de América Latina (Open Veins of Latin America, 1971) which have been translated into twenty languages and transcend orthodox genres: combining fiction, journalism, political analysis, and history.

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Filed under Americas, History, Indigenous Peoples

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