Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) defended Christopher Columbus, referring to the protesters who toppled a statue of the explorer at Minnesota’s state capitol as the “American Taliban.”
His remark earned him criticism from Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who noted that the demonstration was organized by indigenous people, upon whose ancestors “Columbus literally started a genocide against.”
“What a sick thing to say about those taking down monuments to their own oppression,” she added.
Cruz doubled down on his remarks.
“No, he didn’t commit genocide, ‘literally’ or otherwise. He did discover the New World, which led to colonizers, some of whom inadvertently brought disease,” he wrote to Omar. “Is it your position that it’s inherently immoral to come to America from a foreign land? I’m glad my Dad came from Cuba.”
Historians would disagree with Cruz’s assertion. As has been noted for decades, Columbus’s expeditions were directly responsible for the annihilation of the indigenous population.
“Columbus was an apocalyptic zealot who massacred natives, mutilated them, pushed African slavery on Hispaniola, engaged in tyranny,’ and numerous other crimes,” tweeted historian Thomas Lecaque, who teaches at Grand View University.
Nor did Columbus mince words, once writing about an encounter with the Arawak natives: “They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things … They willingly traded everything they owned … They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features …. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane. … They would make fine servants. … With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” Columbus would add: “As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.”
Columbus’s men took natives captive, enslaving them. An estimated 250,000 Arawak were killed on Hispaniola, and the entire population was wiped out within 150 years.
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