Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Time for the Columbus Mattress Sale Again

On the subject of conquest and colonization (discussed in class last night), this article that just came out is very appropriate. Remember that these are 2 of the 4 "modes of incorporation?" The other two are immigration (which is voluntary) and slavery (which is obviously not--like conquest and colonization). As Mexican American journalist, Roberto Rodriguez reminds us, there is a systematicity in who is denied a voice in history.

October 12, by the way, is Dia de la Raza. -Dra. Valenzuela

Column of the Americas
Oct 11, 2007 (Media release upon receipt)
By Roberto Rodriguez
Time for the Columbus Mattress Sale Again

Challenging the widely held-beliefs of his contemporaries, Christopher
Columbus sets sail across the Atlantic ocean on La Pinta, la Niña and
the Santa Maria. The objective of this commercial venture, called The
Enterprise, is to find a Westerly route to the Indies. After several
months of sailing, on Oct. 12, 1492, he discovers America and proves
that the world is round. He not only claims the continent and finds
riches for the King and Queen of Spain, but begins the greatest
civilizing project in the history of humanity, bringing both
civilization and Christianity to the savages of the New World and to
those in Africa as well. This divine mission becomes"The New Promised
Land" for all those fleeing oppression and bondage, while seeking
religious freedom, liberty, equality and justice for all. As such,
America becomes the beacon for all of humanity, for all freedom-loving

The above is a commonly repeated children's myth regarding Christopher
Columbus. It forms the central tenet of the Western "master narrative"
of history. It also is the basis of U.S. history. In it, Columbus is
symbolically the quintessential Founding Father, not simply of the
United States, but of the Americas. He is the person who symbolically
culturally unites the East and the West and makes possible the unity
of humanity. In this story, beyond ignoring ancient wayward travelers
from other distant lands, ignored are Indigenous peoples as human
beings. Ignored are thousands of year-old narratives of origins and
migrations and epic journeys and thousands-of-year-old histories. In
this so-called master narrative, Indigenous peoples don't count and
essentially, are remanded to the status of savages waiting to be
discovered, civilized and saved by Europeans on divine [and
commercial] missions from God. Without moving, Indigenous peoples are
even displaced geographically as they are not part of the West and
certainly not part of the East. (Without moving, this is how many of
us become aliens).

Neither the histories of Indigenous peoples, nor pre-Colombian contact
(Vikings or others) between the continents, form part of the master
narrative because they do not conform with the religio-vision of the
conquest of the Americas. Despite the Columbus story being mostly lore
and fable, it survives because it is useful and it helps to weave the
master narrative as one of divine mission, providence, and then later,
manifest destiny. In this manner, as Cree writer Sharon Venne argues
in Our Elders know our Rights, it, in effect, serves to justify
genocide, land theft and slavery and the complete dehumanization of
peoples not inside of the Western or master narrative. In this
religio-vision, she argues, Euro-Iberians were not simply entitled to
these lands, but in effect, were carrying out a divine mandate to
Christianize and civilize the entire world. This mandate enabled
Spanish conquistadores, through divine right, to both take lands not
claimed by Christians and to wage merciless war upon non-Christians.
(Sound familiar?)

The mandate, which came in the form of the Requerimiento, a Spanish
proclamation backed by Papal Bulls, was authorized by the King and
Queen of Spain, plus the Catholic Pope. In this vision, violence and
genocide are not seen as such, or are seen as fully sanctioned by God.
Here is an excerpt from the Requerimiento, made available through
Bartolome de las Casas "protector of the Indians." Here, it picks up
after proclaiming, under authority of the Catholic Church, that the
lands now belong to the King and Queen of Spain, and that those
listening to this proclamation must accept and adhere to it:

"If you do not do this, however, or resort maliciously to delay, we
warn you that, with the aid of God, we will enter your land against
you with force and will make war in every place and by every means we
can and are able, and we will then subject you to the yoke and
authority of the Church and Their Highnesses. We will take you and
your wives and children and make them slaves, and as such we will sell
them, and will dispose of you and them as Their Highnesses order. And
we will take your property and will do to you all the harm and evil we
can, as is done to vassals who will not obey their lord or who do not
wish to accept him, or who resist and defy him. We avow that the
deaths and harm which you will receive thereby will be your own blame,
and not that of Their Highnesses, nor ours, nor of the gentlemen who
come with us . . ."

Now that we know the Columbus story, let's all go out and get us a
discounted mattress.

(c) Column of the Americas 2007

Patzin, by Gonzales is published the 1st Monday of the Month.
Macehual, by Rodriguez is published the 3rd & 5th Mondays of the
month. Gonzales can be reached at Rodriguez can be
reached at Also at: 520-743--0376
PO BOX 41552, Tucson, AZ 85717. Their columns are archived at:

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