Oblivious in Sosua: Part 5 – War, Slavery and Mines

Most countries in the word have a complicated history. You should educate yourself; even just topically; on the cultural history of a country in which you’re going to visit.

A Dominican man at the market was talking about the Taino figurines he had for sale; he explained that they were the native inhabitants of the island. The Taino were there before the Spanish arrived; lead by an Italian explorer on a Spanish mandate. Cristoforo Colombo; a traitor to his king; a man guilty of connecting those responsible for the Inquisition with a new population of Heathens and Savages from which to Inquire.

“What happened to them?” was not an appropriate question.

In hindsight; knowing about what happened to the American Indian should have negated my verbalization of my question before it was asked. The arrival of colonists in the Americas didn’t have a positive effect on the indigenous population in America; it was probably the rum that made me comfortable asking what happened to the indigenous folks in his country, though I should have held my tongue.

Are they still here?

Do they have special designated areas in which to live?

He mumbles around for a moment and then says, “You should just read about it.”

“Got it” I say awkwardly.

These lyrics from the Immortal Technique song, Point of No Return, suddenly hit me like a brick wall.

I’ve gone too far, there ain’t no coming back for me
Auschwitz gas chamber full of Zyklon-B
Just like the Spanish exterminating Tainos
Raping the black and Indian women, creating Latinos

They destroyed them. They enslaved them; worked them dry; and when the Tainos started dying off – the Spanish started importing African slaves to work the mines.

Here is a portion of an article from The Smithsonian online publication that sums up the demise of the Tiano culture:

The Taíno impressed Columbus with their generosity, which may have contributed to their undoing. “They will give all that they do possess for anything that is given to them, exchanging things even for bits of broken crockery,” he noted upon meeting them in the Bahamas in 1492. “They were very well built, with very handsome bodies and very good faces….They do not carry arms or know them….They should be good servants.”

In short order, Columbus established the first American colony at La Isabela, on the north coast of Hispaniola, in 1494. After a brief period of coexistence, relations between the newcomers and natives deteriorated. Spaniards removed men from villages to work in gold mines and colonial plantations. This kept the Taíno from planting the crops that had fed them for centuries. They began to starve; many thousands fell prey to smallpox, measles and other European diseases for which they had no immunity; some committed suicide to avoid subjugation; hundreds fell in fighting with the Spaniards, while untold numbers fled to remote regions beyond colonial control.

SOURCE:  The Smithsonian Online Publication

I passed through La Isabela, briefly, on my trip to Puntia Rusia on the Northern coast of Hispanola. There is a statue of Christopher Columbus erected in the middle of a roundabout in the main part of town. Our tour guide pointed it out; I’d of never been able to translate the Spanish otherwise.

There’s a lot of history here; as there is everywhere. If you visit a country and don’t try to dive into the culture and history; to learn about the things that happened on the ground you’re walking on for the week; I firmly believe you’ve wasted an opportunity.

I’ve always dreamed of going to Damascus, Syria so that I could experience the history. To walk on the ground that so many have walked before; undoubtedly ancestors of ancestors; somewhere down the line.

Maybe not an ancestor; but certainly a guy that knew a guy who had a beer with an ancestor in a pub at some undetermined point and location in history.

The Mediterranean isn’t a very large area. It’s amazing to imagine that so much of the social, cultural, and spiritual development of Europe and the Middle East happened along the coast of one moderately sized body of water. The inhabitants not likely knowing much more existed to the West. No thought of America crossing their minds; at least not that we know about.

Certainly a few of them made it over during the past 200,000 years; buried in the sands of history and unknown to the record keepers of the day.

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3 responses to “Oblivious in Sosua: Part 5 – War, Slavery and Mines

  1. Pingback: Oblivious in Sosua: Part 4 | Nukes of Knowledge

  2. Had pleasure in reading your accounts and being travelled myself I appreciate your style.
    Only one sidenote: the explorer, adventurer and mercenary’s name was Cristoforo Colombo and was Italian.
    It’s like we Italians referred to George Washington as “Giorgio Lavatrice” (george the washingmachine) which would be by all means pretty ridiculous.

    • You rock, thank you!

      I will edit the piece to clarify that he was an Italian explorer sailing on a Spanish ship. Despite the fact he was an Italian explorer; he claimed land for Spain – not Italy.

      To be honest; this is something I remember from school; but didn’t even cross my mind when I wrote this article.

      Your comment will allow me to make the story just a bit more informative for the readers.

      Thanks again for reading!

      Cheers,

      -J.G.

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