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60.000 x 36.000 x 1.500 inches
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Haiti 1492 Before Christopher Columbus
Painting - Oil On Canvas
On the evening of December 5, 1492, Christopher Columbus spotted Haiti. Christopher Columbus waited daylight on December 6th, the celebration of St. Nicolas, to disembark on a magnificent bay that he called, Saint Nicolas. Today, that bay still keeps its given name. My painting shows life in the island, while the three Spanish boats: La Nina, La Pinta, and La Santa Maria were seen approaching Haiti at the horizon.
The Spanish thought all the inhabitants of the countries they discovered were "Indians". In reality, America was populated by copper colored tribes. They were seen as red skinned by the Spanish because they colored their skin with red roucou pigment (annatto, archiote).Those tribes were different from each other in behavior. The "Incas" of Peru and the "Aztecs" tribes of Mexico both possessed a remarkable civilization. The "Caribs" tribes of Martinique and of Guadeloupe were very cruel. They often attacked their neighbors. The Spanish called this tribe, "Caribis" which means cannibals. In fact, they were not cannibalisms as the textbooks continue to promote. Human flesh was not actually being eaten. It was used as a ritual practice to take over the spirit of an illustrious warrior. This ritual was performed before the Caribs carried out a raiding mission. In Haiti, we find two tribes: the gentle and peaceful, "Arawaks" and the "Caribs" who came from Martinique and Guadeloupe.
The Arawaks of Haiti and the "Caribs" of Martinique and Guadeloupe are also known as Amerindians. The Amerindians are indigenous to the region, but they were part of a migration of humans from Central East Asia to the Americas, 35,000 years ago. The migration was possible via Beringia, which is a land bridge that connected the two continents across what is now the Bering Strait; a land bridge between eastern Siberia and present-day Alaska, existing when sea levels were significantly lower due to the glacial or ice age period (Quaternary glaciation). The Amerindians spreaded throughout the Americas, diversifying into many hundreds of culturally distinct nations and tribes. The Arawaks and the Caribs were part of a large family that inhabited the North and South America.
The island inhabitants of Haiti, the Amerindians, were also called Tainos (Arawakan language), meaning: good or noble. The Tainos called the island: "Ayiti, Quiskeya, or Bohio", Arawakan words meaning "Big Land, High Land, or Mountainous Land". Ayiti means: "Land of high mountains". The Tainos of Ayiti were not wild and uncivilized. They possessed a politic, social, and religious organization. The whole island of Ayiti was divided into five kingdoms called "Caciquats". Each kingdom (Caciquat) was governed by a sovereign named "Cacique". The five kingdoms' names, locations, and Caciques were:
Caciquats Location Caciques
1. Magua in the North-East Guarionex
2. Marien in the North-West Guacanagaric
3. Xaragua in the South-West Bohechio and Anacaona
4. Maguana in the Center, region of Cibao. Caonabo
5. Higuey in the South-East Cotubanama
There were no towns. All Haitians were submissive under the governance of a subordinate-king or sub-Cacique.
The Tainos were friendly and welcoming by nature. They lived happily without any hard labor. They were primarily agricultural. For nourishment, Tainos had fruits from the forests, like guava and pineapple. They had cashew; products from fishing: turtle, sea cow (manatee), shell fish, fish; vegetable, sweet potatoes, maize or corn (arguably the most important crop in the world), manioc (which was used to make cassava), pumpkins; beans, such as lima beans; tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, and chili peppers. The Arawaks enjoyed small animals for meat. They ate ducks, doves, parrots, and iguana. They were hunters and gatherers. The Arawaks used small dogs called, "alcos" for hunting and occasionally for food. They domesticated some species of cotton. They grew tobacco and they smoke it in the form of cigar. Tobacco happens to be an Indian contribution to humanity. Indians made rolls of dried tobacco leaves; they formed the rolls into pipes in which they burned the tobacco leaves. The Indians knew the strange power that the smoked tobacco leaves had on them. Its effects were variable. At moments when inspiration was needed, smokers perceived the smoke as stimulating. When they felt anxious, they perceived the smoke as tranquilizing. Columbus and early explorers took pleasure in it also. They transported tobacco leaves and seeds around the world. Within a decade, they spreaded the tobacco plant. The Spanish settlers in Hispaniola (Haiti) smoked cigars like the Arawaks.
The Indians dressed with a short skirt fabricated with cotton that the women weaved themselves. Children stayed naked. Men and women wore strip of cotton ornament around their upper arms. The women also weaved hammocks; as the Arawaks enjoyed taking long nap. The hammock happens to be another contribution to the European culture.
An agricultural contribution of the Tainos is the agrarian terraces which are still being used by farming peasants in Haiti's mountains today.
The copper skinned Arawaks had black eyes, and straight black hair. They decorated their hair with parrots' feathers. The men wore their hair in the back. The women's hair was usually braided; unmarried women wore headbands. They were fond of living near the sea. They lived in round or rectangular houses with porches. Those houses are called "ajoupas", resembling the ones we have now in Haitian rural villages. With very strong rocks, they invented stone tools. They created hatchet which they used to dig their pirogues They loved to dance and sing at religious ceremony. The Arawaks were polytheists. Their many gods were called "Zemes". They worshiped the sun (Yah); they worshiped the moon (Vah); they worshiped the sea, trees, animals, and all other kinds of objects. At the era of Christopher Columbus discovery of Haiti, there were about one million Tainos in Haiti. To be noted, the American History books described the Continent, and the islands, to be sparsely, primitively populated. The Spanish described the Indians as peaceful people.
Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy. He was supposed to conquer territories in the name of Christianity and the Spanish Crown; also at that time, Spain wanted to strengthen its commercial prospects overseas. Because India was known for its great wealth, Christopher Columbus was setting to search a western route to India; he was seeking for Japan and the East Indies. Columbus wanted to prove his round-earth theory because everyone else imagined the world was flat.
On August 3rd, 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed in three small ships; la Nina, la Pinta, and la Santa Maria. Columbus landed the island of Haiti, on December 6th, 1492. He landed on a beautiful bay which he called, Saint-Nicolas. This bay still kept Columbus's given name. He landed on the Marien, on the North of the island. On December 12th, he solemnly possessed the island by erecting a huge wooden cross on the island. He also planted in the ground, the royal banner of Spain, in the presence of the Tainos. Christopher Columbus claimed the island for Spain. Christopher called the island Hispaniola, (little Spain) because it reminded him of Spain. Christopher Columbus thought he had landed in an unknown region of the East Indies, so he called the inhabitants, "Indian". "Indian", is an inaccurate name which remains attached to the aboriginal people of the whole American Continent. Christopher Columbus carried out three trips to Haiti. On the 2nd voyage, in 1493, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain provided Columbus with 17 ships,1200-1500 men, cannons, crossbows, guns, horses, attack dogs, cats, seeds, pigs, and sheep; (to be noted, the Spaniards and the Europeans brought horses, (cavalry), to Americas.)
When the Spaniards returned to Hispaniola in 1493, (on the 2nd voyage), the demands to the Indians were: food, gold, spun cotton, and sex with their women. Christopher Columbus rewarded his lieutenants in his 1493 expedition with native women to rape. In Haiti, sex slaves were one more perquisite, (gratuity), that the Spanish enjoyed. The Spaniards were mainly interested in extracting the wealth of Hispaniola and taking it back to Europe. To ensure cooperation, Christopher Columbus used punishment by example: cut off ears or nose and sending the person back to his village as living evidence of the brutality that the Spaniards were capable of.
The Tainos fought off Spanish conquest. The attempts at resistance gave Columbus an excuse to make war. The Tainos, during their fights with the Spanish, were terrified by the guns killing them from far, the horses crushing them, and the dogs ripping their limbs and bellies opened. In 1495, the Indians died by the thousands. One of the earliest Taino leaders, to fight off Spanish conquest was Queen Anacaona. She was married to Caonabo, the cacique of Maguana. The couple resisted Spanish rule in vain. Queen Anacaona was captured by the Spanish by treason, and treachery. She was executed in front of her people. To this day, Queen Anacaona is revered in Haiti as one of the country's founders. Caonabo also was taken by treason, imprisoned, and placed in a boat to Spain. He was never seen again.
In 1493, Christopher Columbus founded the first European town of Isabella in the Northern coast of Hispaniola. He named this town "Isabella" to express his gratitude toward Queen Isabella of Spain who granted his voyages to the Indies. The town Isabella was struck twice by hurricanes in 1494 and 1495. In 1496, Christopher Columbus' younger brother, Bartholomew Columbus, transferred the town to the eastern part of the island, and named it "Santo Domingo". This town was beautified and became the capital of Hispaniola, which is now present day Santo Domingo, capital of the present day Dominican Republic. Santo Domingo is the first site of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World.
Having as yet found no fields of gold, Columbus had to return some kind of dividend to Spain. The Spaniards initiated slave raids. Native Indians were forced into slavery and shipped to Spain. In Castile, Portugal, Aragon, and the Canary Island, they needed many slaves. The Spaniards sent slaves from Hispaniola; slaves whom could be sold. A repellent aspect of the slave trade was sexual. There were plenty of dealers who went about looking for girls; girls from nine to ten years old were in demand. A Spanish eyewitness described that among the slaves chosen were many women who had infants at the breast. In order to escape the Spaniards, they desperately left their infants anywhere on the ground and fled far beyond mountains and across huge rivers.
A reign of terror began in Hispaniola. Spaniards hunted Indians for sport and murdered them for dog food. Columbus was upset that he could not locate the gold he was certain was on the island, set up a tribute system. Christopher Columbus's son, Ferdinand Columbus described how the tribute system worked: all Indians promised to pay tribute to the Catholic Sovereigns every three months; every person of 14 years of age was to pay a large hawk's bell of gold dust; all others were to individually pay 25 pounds of cotton. Whenever an Indian delivered his tribute, he received a brass or copper token which he had to wear about his neck as proof that he made his payment. With a fresh token, an Indian was safe for three months, much of which, the time would be devoted to collecting more gold. Ferdinand Columbus neglected to mention how the Spanish punished those whose tokens had expired; they cut off their hands.
All of these gruesome facts are related in the work of Bartholomew de Las Casas, (B-1484-D-1566). Las Casas was a 16th Century Spanish historian, social reformer, and he was also a member of the Catholic religious order, Dominicans. He was among the first settlers in the New World. He focused on the atrocities committed by the colonizers against the indigenous peoples of Hispaniola. He was officially appointed, "Protector of the Indians". His extensive writings; the most famous, "A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies", and "Historia de Las Indias", chronicle the first decades of colonization of the West Indies and focus particularly on the atrocities committed by the colonizers against the indigenous peoples.
In 1499, Christopher Columbus finally found gold in Hispaniola in significant amount. Gold was found in the region of Cibao, where Caonabo and Anacaona were. The Spanish adventurers demanded from Columbus that the Indians be put to slavery. Columbus did not have the courage to reject such an unjust and criminal request. Land in the Indians' view is a communal space, impossible to own. Indians were to see Columbus dividing Hispaniola in portion of land with a certain number of Indians attached to that land. That distribution of land and Indians is called "Repartimiento". This is how Christopher Columbus granted slaves to his companions and started slavery in the New World. Slavery destroyed the whole Indian nation. The quiet, peaceful Arawaks were about to totally disappear from the surface of the Earth. The Spanish had the Indians mine for gold. If they refused to work in the mine, they were killed. They were enslaved in cotton and tobacco plantations. The mistreated Tainos began to adopt suicidal behaviors, with women aborting and killing their infants, men jumping from the cliffs or ingesting freshly squeezed manioc water, or non processed manioc, which contains cyanide, a violent poison. They were also killed by infectious disease (measles, smallpox) brought by the Europeans. The indigenous population lacked immunity to certain diseases which were new to the Tainos. The first recorded smallpox outbreak in the Americas occurred in Hispaniola in 1507. The dying off of the Tainos was also due to ill-treatment; drop in birth rate, and malnutrition. The enslaved Tainos were submitted to a diet of cassava and sweet potatoes. They could not even find any vegetable to balance their diet, because the Spanish imported pigs to Hispaniola. The pigs were left free roaming and they devastated the crops of the Arawaks.
Enslaved Indians died. To replace the dying Haitians, the Spanish imported tons of thousand more Indians from the Bahamas. Packed in below deck with no escaped way, many slaves died on the trip from the Bahamas to Hispaniola. With Bahamas which was soon to be deserted, Puerto Rico and Cuba were next.
Since the Indian population was decreasing, in 1503, the very first blacks arrived from Africa. The Spanish began to import enslaved African for free labor. In 1506, the first sugarcane plantation begins. In 1513, in regards to the native Indians, laws were set from Spain governing the behaviors of the Spanish settlers toward the Indians, because Indians were grouped together to work under Spanish colonial masters. The Spaniards' mission was to convert the Indians to Christianity, and to prevent maltreatment of the natives since the Indian population was decreasing. In 1517, the religious man named Las Casas, advised the emperor Charles-Quint to authorize "la traite des noirs", all over again. This revolting traffic involving the transportation of African slaves was at one point prohibited. The Tainos almost became extinct on the island of Hispaniola. Some Tainos escaped to the mountains and mixed with other African slave runaways, the maroons.
Hispaniola was very prosperous for 30 years. During that period, gold mine exploitation was making the colony and Spain rich. Spain became the envy of Europe. European religious and political leaders amassed so much gold that they applied gold leaf to the ceilings of their churches and palaces. They erected golden statues in the corners, and string vines of golden grapes between them. Sugar cane plantation in Hispaniola which had begun in 1506 was tremendously encouraged; same as the production of sugar in 1535. However, the colony became very miserable because the gold miners were exhausted; the commerce was not free, all the ports were closed except: Santo Domingo port; the Indians were dying more and more. Since the Spanish wanted to get rich fast, the majority of the colonizers left Hispaniola for Cuba, the Peru or Mexico. By 1545, the island without commerce or agriculture was almost totally abandoned.
In 1625, French and Britain came to Hispaniola the same day. The English took possession of the island, la Tortuga (Turtle Island). This Island is part of Hispaniola. It is located in the north of Hispaniola. The French established themselves on the Northwest coast of Hispaniola. In 1641, the English were chased from the island of Tortuga. The French, who were (at first) pirates, turned into settlers later.
In 1685, the first windmill for processing sugar was built.
There were hostilities in the island between the French and the Spanish. The French were in continual attack from the Spanish who were making any definitive French organization extremely difficult. But on September 20, 1697, the Treaty of Ryswick, divided Hispaniola; The Treaty of Ryswick is a peace treaty signed in the Dutch Republic between France and the three powers, England, Spain, and the United Provinces. The United Provinces was another name for the Dutch Republic, a Republic in Europe existing from 1581-1795, which is now the Netherlands. In that treaty, France received the western third (1/3) of the island, that they called "Saint-Domingue", which is present day Haiti, where Port-au-Prince is the Capital. The Spanish received the eastern two third (2/3) part of the island, which is present day "Dominican Republic", where Santo Domingo is the Capital. A period of tranquility started for Saint-Domingue. Many French colonists soon arrived and developed large sugar cane plantations. Saint-Domingue was divided into three provinces: the North, the West, and the South. Each province was divided into districts. At the head of the colony was the Governor General. The governor General was the representation of the King of France.
Saint-Domingue developed itself rapidly to the point that it was called, "The Queen of the Islands", "La Perle des Antilles". In the 18th Century, the inhuman commerce on the African coast was very active. The African slaves were being transported by the thousands on Saint-Domingue's coasts. Africans thus became victims of the "discovery" of Americas as surely as did the now extinct, Arawaks and Caribs.
Saint-Domingue became the richest colony in the Caribbean before a 1791 slave revolt began the Haitian revolution, and concluded with the independence of Saint-Domingue in 1804. When Saint-Domingue became independent, it retook its Taino name: "Ayiti", which is also her Haitian Creole name; in French, "Haiti", officially, "Republique d'Haiti"; in English, "Republic of Haiti". Haitian Creole and French are the two official languages. Haiti is the only predominantly independent nation in the Americas (along with Canada) that designated French as an official language; the other French speaking areas are all overseas sectors or collective units of France. That means they are French administered territories outside of the European continent. Those overseas areas to name a few are: In the Caribbean: Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St Martin; in the Northern Atlantic coast of South America: French Guiana; In the Indian Ocean: Reunion, and Mayotte.
Christopher Columbus calling every inhabitant, "Indian", never knew he had discovered the "New World". When Columbus' mistake was recognized, Spain labeled the islands that separated the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean, the WEST INDIES. This is to distinguish them from the SPICE ISLANDS of the Pacific Ocean's, EAST INDIES; however, Since World War II, the preferred term for the WEST INDIES is CARIBBEAN.
In recent years, "Native Americans" has come into use as an alternative name to replace the inaccurate one: "Indians"; however, a less misleading name should have been: "Indigenous Americans".
Haiti is a West Indies Island, or Haiti is a Caribbean Island.
All the Caribbean Islands are linked by their common social, cultural, and historical legacies. They are linked historically because of their connections to slavery, European colonization, and the plantation system. The West Indies which are all linked together consists of many countries (30 countries). They are referred as the following islands: Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda Islands, Bonaire, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, the Republic of Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saba, Saint John, Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia, Saint Thomas, Saint Vincent, Santo Domingo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands. In addition to the island countries, other mainland countries are now included; they are: Belize, located in Central America; the three Guianas located on the Northern coast of South America; they are: the French Guiana, an overseas region of France; the independent nation of Guyana( formerly British Guiana); the Republic of Suriname (formerly known as Dutch Guiana)
The lingering questions to be asked are: "What is the U.S. celebrating on Columbus Day?" and "Why is Christopher Columbus being portrayed as Americas' first great hero?"
---It is understood that the voyage of 1492 revealed a previously unknown continent to the Europeans and set an overwhelming sequence of discovery and conquest. But, Christopher Columbus plainly sailed in the wrong direction. He thought that he had reached the East Indies while seeking Asia. He started calling every inhabitant, "Indian". Columbus died in 1506. He never knew that he had "discovered the New World". He thought Cuba was Japan. Within a decade after his death, all the major West Indian islands put aside Barbados, which had been explored by Europeans.
Let us analyze the terms, "discover" and "New World": How can one person "discover" what another already knows and owns? People have lived in Americas for thousands of years; Americas were only "New" to Europeans only.
---An American literary critic, theorist and scholar named Stephen Jay Greenblatt (born 1943) points out- "According to medieval concepts of natural law, only those territories that are uninhabited can become the property of the first person to discover them."
Let's analyze Christopher Columbus action: In the presence of indigenous population, he took possession of new land in the name of the Spanish throne imposing Spanish order. A royal Spanish flag was brought ashore"
---"The Ancient Athenians distinguished between man-made laws and natural laws. The Romans particularly the ancient Roman philosopher, Marcus Tillius Cicero, similarly argued that human law ought to be in conformity with eternal principles of "high reason". It has been noted that slavery existed by human law, but was contrary to nature."
Again, let's analyze Christopher Columbus action: Christopher Columbus did not reject the demand of the Spanish adventurers to put the Indians to slavery. Slavery started in Haiti with Christopher Columbus. It progressed with the arrival of the first blacks from Africa in 1506.
---Between infectious diseases; measles and smallpox exposure, warfare, maltreatment, and slavery, all the Tainos were exterminated.
Again, those lingering questions: "What is the U.S. celebrating on Columbus Day?" and "Why is Christopher Columbus being portrayed as America's "first great hero?"
Christopher Columbus transformed the modern world by taking land, wealth, and labor from the Indigenous People. Columbus revolutionized race relations by introducing the transatlantic slave trade, which created a racial underclass.
No sensible Haitian can celebrate the arrival of Columbus. Slavery began in the "New world" almost as soon as Columbus got off the boat in Haiti. Columbus's conquest of Haiti is understood as a bloody atrocity that left a legacy of genocide and slavery. Haitians pay tribute to the Arawaks each year at Carnival time. Some disguise themselves as Arawaks and dance their dance. Contrary to the teaching, Christopher Columbus was a cruel murderer. He is not a hero in Haiti!
References: 1. HISTOIRE D'HAITI, Editions HENRY DESCHAMPS, PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI
2. Jay Greenblatt-WIKIPEDIA
4."Lies My Teacher Told Me"-- Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong---by James W. Loewen
May 12th, 2012
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