During the early years, a spirit of exploration developed amongst individuals. Governments and individuals began funding explorations into new lands. The need for exploration was driven by diverse aspects. Among these included the need for new trade routes, spirit of adventure, and a search for new colonies. In addition, some voyages were carried out in search of wealth. During the various voyages, the explorers’ correspondence in the form of letters served as an avenue for divulging information regarding the various discoveries. Explorers were awed by the various discoveries that included the discovery of new people, lands, and experience of new cultures. In essence, the major source of bafflement for the explorers were the indigenous people. This can be derived from their description in their correspondence. To this end, this paper aims at looking into the nondescript description of indigenous people by Christopher Columbus and Pedro Vaz Caminha derived from individual letters.
With respect to Columbus, he started writing his letter in the year 1493. Columbus wrote the letter while on board of his exploration ship. This was during his return voyage from the Americas. Columbus letter served as a reference point for others regarding the new lands. Later on, in 1500, Pedro ventured into another voyage with an aim of reaching India. However, he ended up discovering Brazil instead. Huge similarities can be derived from both letters. In the letters, the explorers exhibited little regard for the indigenous people. Pedro describes them as being devoid of civilization. This is exhibited by the continuous description of their nakedness throughout his letters. In one of the lines in the letter, Pedro terms the indigenous people as barbaric. He attributes this to the existence of a language barrier between them and the natives. The same is reflected in Columbus’ description of people in the new lands. In one instance, Columbus describes that the indigenous people could be good slaves. This reflects the existence of indifference towards indigenous inhabitants.
In addition, a description of both explorers bordered more on objects rather than humanity. Pedro reiterates that the people appeared reddish. He continues by describing their faces and noses. Also, Pedro describes their mode of dressing, or lack of one, as primitive. In his letter, Pedro describes that the people had no shame. They walked naked without a care as to the thoughts of others. In the case of Columbus, his view of the indigenous people was biased from the onset. He did not have any regard towards their humanity, culture, or respect. All that Columbus saw as an avenue for profit making. In the case of the indigenous people, all they did was act as obstacles to his ambitions. Later on, Columbus endeavored to eliminate the indigenous people so as to pave way for the development of a new, civilized people.
Another similarity derive from the explorers' view of the indigenous religion. Columbus describes the natives as devoid of any religion. Later on, he embarks on a quest of transforming them into Catholics. In his letter, Columbus disregard for ‘barbaric’ religions is expressed where he terms other religions, including Islam, as being wayward. On the other hand, Pedro’s sentiments on the indigenous’ people’s religion is confirmed by his descriptions. In one instance, he states that one of the indigenous people was excited by the sight of Rosary beads. However, his interest was of a material nature. Pedro insists that there was no way that they would have given the Rosary beads to the indigenous people.
In this case, the large differences between the two explorers can be derived from the explorers’ differing positions and goals. In the case of Columbus, he was promised 10 percent of everything that he would bring back home. In a bid to maximize these profits, he ended up viewing the indigenous people as obstacles to his ambitions. Any people that resisted his excursions ended up dead, enslaved, or suffering. This is illustrated by Columbus’ offer of slaves to the King. In his letter, Columbus states that the indigenous people were ready to be shipped as slaves at an instance. During his first encounter, Columbus notes in his letter the indigenous people would make good slaves. He reiterated that he would take six of them back as gifts to the King. Later on, the new slaves were paraded and shown to all in the cities of Barcelona. In the case, of Pedro, his letter served as a description of what he saw. His position in his ship did not wield any power. As such, he did not have any attributable direct benefits from the voyage. His description can thus be termed as being of an impartial nature.
In retrospective, the aim of writing the letters was based on a myriad of reasons. In the case of Columbus, a negative description of the indigenous people would go towards giving him the King’s blessings in plundering the new lands. In addition, the letters would allow him to sell off the people as slaves, take their gold, and convert them into Christians. In the case of Pedro, his description could be said as being geared towards a call for civilization and a source of diverse resources. In the letter, Pedro reflects that their captain considered sending samples home. This would be a message for the king to send more people. He later describes the immediate reactions, from the indigenous people, after they held a mass. Pedro reiterates that the people watched curiously as the mass was held. After the mass, the people engaged in dancing and shouting. During the writing of these letters, Spain, as a Christian country, saw a need for spreading Christianity. In addition, the country endeavored to search for riches. In all this, the church played an active aspect by supporting their endeavors. This is reflected by the fact that the church approved Columbus’ colonization of new lands.
In conclusion, Christopher Columbus’ and Pedro Vaz Caminha’s views of the indigenous people in the new lands were biased. In their view, they saw the individuals as being wayward, uncivilized, and devoid of humanity. This is reflected by their descriptions in the correspondence that they sent home. In addition, some of the descriptions of the two explorers were immensely exaggerated. The reason for this could be attributed to the fact that they wanted to discredit the natives. In most instances, the Portuguese and the Spanish misused religion as a scapegoat. Some of the atrocities committed were termed as essential in the process of converting indigenous people to Christianity. Pedro’s ship captured and converted two people while Columbus took away six people as slaves. The letters manage to raise questions of goodwill amongst the Spanish. Their actions, despite a religion advocating for peace, reflected another side.
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