Thursday, March 6, 2014

Indians painted at Vatican in 1494

Long Hidden, Vatican Painting Linked To Native American

This is a fascinating close-up of a painting uncovered in the Vatican in recent years. I don't know any more about this than what is in the news reports. There are plenty of links, but I chose NPR. Excerpt below. More beneath the images.

The fresco, The Resurrection, was painted by the Renaissance master Pinturicchio in 1494 — just two years after Christopher Columbus first set foot in what came to be called the New World.
Centuries of grime was removed during the recent restoration, revealing the men with the headdresses. Both photos from NPR, courtesy of Vatican Museums.



This recently restored painting in the Vatican, created in 1494 by the Renaissance master Pinturicchio, has a small depiction of naked men with feathered headdresses. This may be the first European depiction of Native Americans. The scene, just above the tomb of Jesus, is too small to be seen in this view of the entire painting but is shown in the photo above.
For close to 400 years, the painting was closed off to the world. For the past 124 years, millions of visitors walked by without noticing an intriguing scene covered with centuries of grime.
Only now, the Vatican says a detail in a newly cleaned 15th century fresco shows what may be one of the first European depictions of Native Americans.
The fresco, The Resurrection, was painted by the Renaissance master Pinturicchio in 1494 — just two years after Christopher Columbus first set foot in what came to be called the New World.
Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, told the Vatican dailyL'Osservatore Romano that after the soot and grime were removed, in the background, just above the open coffin from where Christ has risen, "we see nude men, decorated with feathered headdresses who appear to be dancing." One of them seems to sport a Mohican cut.
The image dovetails with Columbus' description of having been greeted by dancing nude men painted black or red.
Commissioned By The Pope
The painting was commissioned by Pope Alexander VI. Anyone who has followed the TV series The Borgias knows he was the infamous Rodrigo Borgia, a Spaniard who fathered several children and became a symbol of church corruption.
Alexander VI became pope in 1492, only a few months before Columbus made landfall.
Art historian Paolucci is convinced the entire Pinturicchio fresco cycle for the Borgia Apartments inside the Vatican had been completed by the end of 1494.
"The Borgia pope was interested in the New World, as were the great chancelleries of Europe," Paolucci told L'Osservatore Romano.
Columbus' four trips to the New World were financed by the Spanish royals Ferdinand and Isabella.
On his return to Spain in March 1493 from his first journey, Columbus handed over his travel journal to the sovereigns who, according to Paolucci, had every interest in keeping it secret.
A Secret That Spread Quickly
But word of Columbus' sensational discovery soon spread throughout Europe.
"It is hard to believe," Paolucci said, "that the Borgia papal court would be unaware of what Columbus saw when he reached the ends of the earth."
Hence, the art historian believes, the dancing figures in Pinturicchio's Resurrectioncould be "the first depiction of Native Americans."
The Borgia pope's links to the New World do not end there.
Alexander VI played a key role in determining how history would play out in what would become The Americas and who would reap the benefits: While Pinturicchio was painting his cycle, Alexander was busy drafting the Tordesillas treaty of June 1494 that divided up the newly discovered territories between the two major naval powers of the time, Spain and Portugal.
One can't help but imagine Alexander pondering the implications of Columbus' discovery while Pinturicchio was concentrating on his brush strokes on the fresh plaster of the Vatican walls.
Pope Alexander has a prominent position in the painting — he's the large figure in ornate robes kneeling on the left, his hands clasped in prayer.
But it's not clear whether he's more transfixed by the image of the risen Christ or by the potential spoils of the New World, represented by the nude dancing figures.
Until now, it was believed that the first known European depictions of Native Americans were those of the British artist John White, who was governor of the colony at Roanoke Island.
But he wasn't even born until nearly half a century after the discovery of the New World.
Pinturicchio's nude figures remained forgotten because the Borgia Apartments were sealed off after Pope Alexander's death in 1503. His successor, Julius II, said he would never live in the rooms of the pope who had so tainted the church's reputation. And Julius ordered that all paintings made for the Borgias be covered in black crepe.
It was not until 1889 that the Borgia Apartments were reopened and dedicated to the display of religious art.
I'm adding the comments because some were excellent (in case NPR takes down that site):

  • A Mohican? 2 years after Columbus's voyage? Doesn't add up. Chris never made it out of the Caribean...
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        The haircut name is deceiving. Practices of the style are diverse from ancient Caucus, to European, to Pawnee, etc. Could have been all the rage in the Caribbean. The timing of commissioned work with CC's return is interesting. Or, those painted figures could be of North African style? Just read about a Libyan tribe that sported such hair. Turns out the Mohawks-Iroquois styled a square patch of hair on top, braided, according to French and Indian War captive James Smith.
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            Christopher Columbus arrived in Hispaniola, what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in 1492. Prior to the arrival of Spain, the island's inhabitants were the TaĆ­no Indians, originating from South America. They were wiped out by the Spanish, who enslaved them, forced them to mine gold, mistreated them, and introduced European diseases.
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                Excellent observation! One might almost see the similarity to the Aztec or Mayan head dresses and hair cuts. It has been revealed that at one time natives from as far away as South America had occupied the islands south of what is now Florida, and that those very descendants greeted Columbus on his "discovery" of the "New World".
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                    I think you are confusing the topic. Nobody in La Florida ever greeted Columbus. Ponce de Leon, who went there in 1513 and named it, was the first recorded Spaniard to go there. Columbus never set foot in North or South America. The people who greeted Columbus were in the Caribbean.
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                        Columbus landed in Venezula on his third voyage in 1498. He then returned on his fourth voyager to explore the continental mainland at Puerto Castilla, near Trujillo, Honduras. He spent two months exploring the coasts of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, before arriving in Almirante Bay in Panama on 16 October, 1502.
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                            No. Columbus sighted what is today Venezuela, but he never set foot there. If you read any of the academic literature on it, you'd know he stayed on board his ship. Those other places are Central America, not the southern continent. Try Morrison and the myriad of other academic books, not the popular lit - bw, in his 4th voyage, he was stranded; wasn't doing much "exploring" at all.
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                              I didn't say he did. I said the descendants occupied the Islands SOUTH of what is now called Florida. I should have said Caribbean.
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                              Men this is an egocentric society...! Assuring that this depiction (or any other) is specifically of Native Americas..? there's another folks in the world besides North America...!
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                                  Dear Mysterious Guest;
                                  Good morning. In regards to your charge of egocentrism, do you mean perhaps "ethnocentric"? Either way, while you are certainly correct concerning (an)other folks in the world, the images represented by Pinturicchio are consistent with other similar representations by other artists that are known to be intended to illustration indigenous people of the Americas, and specifically North America. Ergo, perhaps your implication may be premature.
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                                    Common misconception: Spaniards sailed the Atlantic coast all the way to Maine... In later years, they actually had forts near Jamestown waaaaay before English settlers. I'm curious to know if these Native Americans are actually Mohicans or another tribe closer to Florida. Another possibility, this could be an addition to the painting done at a later date as it was not uncommon to add or paint over sections of a fresco. This doesn't necessarily have to be related to Columbus.
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                                        No in 1494 they did not. Nobody in the 4 Columbus expeditions went to North America, much less jamestown or further north. Mexico, Florida and other areas were visited later.
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                                            I would disagree with the addition to the painting. The painting has been dated to the reign of the Borgias. It was common knowledge that Columbus returned to Spain with natives. These depictions would confirm their survival on the crossing to Europe. The sealing of the rooms until 1889 would be proof enough of the dating.
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                                                The painting does not confirm their survival because it is not accurate. Look at how pale-skinned the Native Americans are. They're even whiter than Jesus!
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                                                    They weren't native Americans for crying out loud. Columbus never stepped foot on the North American Continent.
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                                                        Not true dee cee. The indigenous people of the the Caribbean, Central America, and South America were still "Native" Americans. Native simply means indigenous. So, even though Columbus didn't come to North America, he nonetheless came into contact with America's natives.
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                                                  What a great find - however, John White was NOT the first European to paint American Indians. Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J...predated White in his watercolors, which date to the 1560s, 20 years before White. Also, there are other depictions of American Indians in Europe on maps and in engravings that go back to the early 16th century. So while yes, the painting discussed is probably the first artistic depiction of American Indians, John White was by no means the first European artist to capture them through art.
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                                                      The article states that John White was previously believed to be the first European to paint Native Americans. I'm not familiar with art of that time, but maybe common knowledge refers to White as the first for various reasons. Regardless, this fresco was completed in 1494, over 50 years earlier than De Morgues.
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                                                          Yes, it does state that - and I in no way suggest that somehow Le Moyne predated what has been discovered - I state "So while yes, the painting discussed is probably the FIRST depiction of American Indians, John White was by no means the first European artist to capture them through art." This fresco most certainly predates Le Moyne - and I no where indicate otherwise. My point is that the blogger for NPR did some shoddy research in regard to identiying John White as the first European believed to paint Native Americans - she is referencing another blogger's website, who is entirely innacurate in this conclusion. Again, beginning in the very early 16th century images of American Indians are found in engravings and, at least in the case of Le Moyne, watercolors.
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                                                            This may be a dumb question but you seem to have some knowledge on the subject (art work, not dumb questions). How'd Pinturicchio know what they looked like to begin with, surely he was working off some sketches made by someone on the expedition? or was it simply written accounts? Seems like paintings based off of written accounts or word of mouth descriptions are wildly inaccurate. I don't recall the painting or the artist (not very helpful) but the image depicted animals from the new world, one being a bear; it looked more like a pig crossed with a wolf. Another was a alligator that looked more like a mythic ocean beast.
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                                                                "It is hard to believe," Paolucci said, "that the Borgia papal court 
                                                                would be unaware of what Columbus saw when he reached the ends of the 
                                                                earth."
                                                                When you are the Vicar of the Holy Mother Church, you get to see secret Spanish documents...or at least your spies do. Spies who would have made sketches and notes of what they saw and passed them along to Rome.
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                                                                    What I was trying to get at was that the actual first art work/ drawings/ sketches may have been done by someone else who saw the natives first hand; might these exist buried somewhere still? Or is there a record of a crew member tasked with documenting such things (I would guess so). In any event I say we give that guy some credit too.
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                                                                    Who's John White and what does he have to do with this?
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                                                                        John White was involved in the Roanoke Island disaster where England attempted to set up a small colony in the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the mid 1580s - about 2 decades before Jamestown. John White was the gov. of the colony, and he returned to England to get supplies, only to be held up by England's issue with the Spanish Armada - when he finally returned to Roanoke Island, the colonists were no longer there - this is the so called "lost colony." However, he created some wonderful watercolors related to the fauna and indigenous life in the New World - or rather, the region he came into contact with. These watercolors, which De Bry tuned into engravings and published (albeit, somewhat embellished), depict Native Americans in a fairly accurate manner. The NPR blogger who wrote this article states that "Until now, it was believed that the first known European depictions of Native Americans were those of the British artist John White, who was governor of the colony at Roanoke Island." That is simply not accurate in any way. That is all I was trying to point out the actual identification of what are possibly Native Americans in this ca. 1494 work is amazing - and it predates any other known depictions of American Indians in European art.
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                                                                            John White was involved in the Roanoke Island disaster where England attempted to set up a small colony in the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the mid 1580s - about 2 decades before Jamestown. John White was the gov. of the colony, and he returned to England to get supplies, only to be held up by England's issue with the Spanish Armada - when he finally returned to Roanoke Island, the colonists were no longer there - this is the so called "lost colony." However, he created some wonderful watercolors related to the fauna and indigenous life in the New World - or rather, the region he came into contact with. These watercolors, which De Bry tuned into engravings and published (albeit, somewhat embellished), depict Native Americans in a fairly accurate manner. The NPR blogger who wrote this article states that "Until now, it was believed that the first known European depictions of Native Americans were those of the British artist John White, who was governor of the colony at Roanoke Island." That is simply not accurate in any way. That is all I was trying to point out the actual identification of what are possibly Native Americans in this ca. 1494 work is amazing - and it predates any other known depictions of American Indians in European art.
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                                                                            A beautiful memorial for another race of people "saved" by the Catholic Church.
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                                                                              I just finished a book "1491: Revelations of the Americas before Columbus". Europeans lived in close quarters with livestock hence the smallpox mutation. It killed millions of Europeans but those who survived had immunity. Native Americans lived differently and had no such immunity. The mass extinction event that transpired was tragic but inevitable. With the world getting smaller ala sailing ships it was just a matter of time. If it hadn't been Columbus it would have been another explorer.
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                                                                                  I also recommend "House of Rain" by Craig Childs. Excellent adventure read on the Anasazi and their "disappearance" based on Child's travels to may southwestern sites and his research/interviews with experts. 90 percent of the Anasazi and their descendents where wiped out by diseases introduced by subsequent Spanish explorers.
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                                                                                      Cannibalism may have been a major factor for their disappearance.
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                                                                                          Not a major factor, although there is evidence. Such violence took place in the final of three stages of Anasazi migrations. Childs does a really good job of laying this out in the book.
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                                                                                              Is it coincidence that the "final three stages" of the Anasazi migrations coincided with the cannibalism? I stand by my statement.
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                                                                                                  Dear dee cee:
                                                                                                  Perhaps you may need to qualify "cannibalism". If you mean the regular consumption of human flesh as a dietary practice, then you may be somewhat misguided. There is the tradition of 'ritual sonsumption' where the flesh or to be more precise a heart etc, is consumed as one a way of honoring or by eating to somehow imbue oneself with the qualities admired in the person(s) of whose flesh one eats, or, as is some in some cultures the cremating of a deceased family or tribe member and then consuming [a portion] those ashes as a communion with and symbolic continuance of that persons presence.
                                                                                                  Neither of these suggests a habit of cannibalism as many presume. 
                                                                                                  While one cannot totally rule out cannibalism per se, it is (was) not as widespread as many had asserted and such assertions are more a demonization of "the other" - not unlike claims that Jews drank infantile blood et al.
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                                                                                                      The "Indians" were cannibals? David Stannard, for instance, in American Holocaust (1992), says the exact opposite! Look up Columbus and the word Caribs, and you'll find he is the origin of much of this myth. They were not eating each other, but it makes murdering Europeans feel good because they were removing the "bad guys."
                                                                                                      The only evidence we have for cannibalism is what the English settlers did to each other in Jamestown, digging people out of the grave and eating them (salting a wife; hacking up a 14-yr-old girl etc). What hypocrisy!
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                                                                                                          Nothing wrong with a bit of cannibalism under the right circumstances or reasons.
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                                                                                                              Resorting to cannibalism in dire situations of survival does not constitute an atrocity - nor does not mentioning these cases amount to hypocracy. The Jamestown incidents involved consumption of human flesh of those who had died, and persons had not been killed in order to eat them; not unlike the case of the soccer team stranded in the Andes Mtns who suvive by eating those who had not suvived the crash itself.
                                                                                                              dee cee may be naive, misinformed or ignorant in a non-perjorative way, but claims of hypocracy seem presumptive.
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                                                                                                                  Go ahead, make excuses by saying the circumstances forced them to eat each other. That argument is no good. Both John Smith and George Percy documented the man in Jamestown who murdered his wife, salted and ate her. He killed her to eat her, the exact opposite of what you claimed. Then they dug people out of the grave (dead 3 days already!) and ate them too. This was not just about "survival."http://articles.washingtonpost...
                                                                                                                  Europeans claimed indigenous Americans were uncivilised because they ate people, an argument to enslave them. It was all false, though. There is proof the English in Jamestown were cannibals. Eating people once, twice or 100 times is enough to qualify as "cannibal." You rape a girl even just once and you are a rapist. End of story. Same principle applies. When Europeans/Americans said/say "they," the Indians, were cannibals, it is pure hypocrisy. And please don't say Jamestown was an aberration. Read it and weep.http://www.guardian.co.uk/comm...
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                                                                                                                      I neither rationalize or otherwise justify cannibalism. My argument is simply that occurance of cannibalism, other than ritual, are relatively rare in most cultures. Nor can this be compared to rape. One does not rape to survive in instances of severe hardship. In the bigger picture Jamestown is indeed and aberration since under any other circumstances those perpetrating the act would have never considered the consumption of human flesh to be acceptable. In this case, unlike your rape analogy, context is important.
                                                                                                                      As for the "end of story" and the defining of "Cannibal", we must also consider that context and common understanding of its use. For example and a more appropriate analogy: 'surviving', as to survive an automobile accident, does not make one a "Survivalist". To be a survivor is one thing, to have a label placed upon one that assumes a habit, tradition, regular practice thereof and/or cultural identity of such is another matter altogether.
                                                                                                                      In this case the idea of being a "Cannibal" is therefore not simply an act done is the most extreme circumstances but rather a cultural label. as such it not unlike labelling a Vietnam Veteran, who may have in the heat of battle killed an infant, with the moniker of "Baby-Killer. In neither case of the "survival" or the "Veteran" is the labelling wholly accurate or justified
                                                                                                                      My assertion stands, however many articles you cite.
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                                                                                                                          I agree cannibalism is "rare in most cultures." Context is important, but you missed it entirely.
                                                                                                                          Europeans accused the "Indians" of cannibalism, yet some of them were guilty of it themselves i.e. hypocrisy. The term "Cannibal" is from Columbus's false accusation one group in the Antilles was eating people. It was slander. People like "dee cee" are misinformed, like you said, but they are labelling the indigenous "savages" by falsely accusing them of cannibalism.
                                                                                                                          Jamestown was not an isolated case. Europeans cannibalised each other during the 30 Years War; Steinhaus (1636); 1761 white settlers to Canada killed an Indian boy to eat; Mignonette (1884 where 2 guys murdered a kid to eat); Shannon (1832); The Dahmers (1846 in which some refused meat because they did NOT want to be cannibals), etc. You can say those were extreme cases and that people almost never resorted to human meat otherwise - I agree. But all of the aforementioned cases were cannibals.
                                                                                                                          The Oxford Dictionary says a cannibal is "a person who eats the flesh of other human beings." None of the major English language dictionaries (Webster's, Chambers etc) mentions frequency or intent, so they are irrelevant. Any person, at any time, therefore, who eats another human is BY DEFINITION a cannibal even if it is only once and only to survive in extreme circumstances (like Jamestown). Even the Smithsonian considers those in Jamestown in the same category as Jeffery Dahmer - i.e. as having engaged in "cannibalism" - whatever the motives or frequency. Your position is that eating people once or twice when they are starving does not make make the eater a cannibal. That is your opinion, but I'll stick with the dictionary as opposed to your "assertion." Check the dictionaries below:
                                                                                                                          http://oxforddictionaries.com/... 
                                                                                                                          http://www.merriam-webster.com...
                                                                                                                          Smithsonian article: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/...
                                                                                                                          You say, "My assertion stands, however many articles you cite." In other words, you have your opinion and no evidence I provide will change your mind. Hence, you reject reason. So am I wasting my time replying to you?
                                                                                                                          Certain members from Europe engaged in cannibalism at one point or another. "Europeans" were in no position to point to say, "Look! Those guys eat people. Let's go conquer them." But they did. That is by definition hypocrisy. I'm sure some individuals in the Americans ate a person here or there as well, but none of that matters. Remember, it was the Europeans going around to lift the "savages" from sin. Those guys people were "cannibals" no matter what you say and no reputable historian would deny that, hence the reason the Jamestown articles were written in the first place - because some historians were quick to say "Indians" were cannibals, but pretended white Europeans at Jamestown were not cannibals.
                                                                                                                          You can focus on semantics or look at the bigger picture. You can consider evidence or you can reject it. Dispute the facts.
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                                                                                                                              Thank you, however, there are technical definitons and then there are colloquial definitions and common use. My assertion stands because you wish only to be correct in a technical manner and as so often happens, you mistaken any and all as an assault.
                                                                                                                              I yield to floor to you for no other reason than that you simply wish to fight and will always find just cause, in your technical sort of way, to do so no matter what.
                                                                                                                              Ergo, You are correct, right, affirmed, validated, victorious, indominitable, the king, el Rey, and undesputed champion.
                                                                                                                              Good night, good luck, don't let the bedbugs bite, or the screendoor hit you on your way out...unless of course, you with to argue over the meaning og "out".
                                                                                                                              In which case you are on your own.
                                                                                                                              Regards,
                                                                                                                              OR
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                                                                                                                        I recommend you read Child's book - he's an expert.
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                                                                                                                      Childs is an AWEsome highly recommended author/environmentalist/explorer etc... I have to try finishing Rain, finally. (Disease primarily wipes out populations, then war and genocide.)
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                                                                                                                        it hasn't stopped to date. New viruses and their mutations are ever evolving. International travel and trade has become far too common with little to no regard to protecting the denizens or their lands.
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                                                                                                                            You might want to read David Weber's (1992) The Spanish Frontier in North America. Weber is an expert on all things Spanish in the New World.
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                                                                                                                                My question to you would be..If David Weber is an "expert on all things Spanish in the New World", who proclaimed him the expert, and why not refer to those that proclaim him to be the "expert"? It seems to me they would know more than Weber, unless of course he is a self proclaimed "expert"?
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                                                                                                                                Looks like your token savages. Bless their hearts!
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                                                                                                                                    I expected to see, "Found On A Piece Of Toast By Suburban Housewife" in the headline of this article...
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                                                                                                                                      "But word of Columbus' sensational discovery soon spread throughout Europe."
                                                                                                                                      Might that be because, before returning to Spain on the return from his first trip, Columbus landed in Portugal? Their trip was no secret at that point and Columbus was lucky he walked out of there alive (was almost arrested and Joao II was a cold blooded murderer). In fact, the Portuguese king was upset and put in a claim with the pope demanding to have some of those lands, beginning the rivalry for the New World (he "owned" Africa so why not the western lands too).
                                                                                                                                      "Alexander was busy drafting the Tordesillas treaty of June 1494 that 
                                                                                                                                      divided up the newly discovered territories between the two major naval 
                                                                                                                                      powers of the time, Spain and Portugal."
                                                                                                                                      There was no "discovery." This is a legal term called the "doctrine of discovery," which stipulates white Christian kings may establish control over lands not claimed by other Christian kings. Hence the papal bull inter caetera (1493) and the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494). What the Spanish born pope Borgias did was to ensure he gave legal authority to exploit the Native American populations mostly to Spain, legalising the theft of lands, the soon to be implemented encomienda (slavery) and the genocide of the populations (Portugal did its dirt in Brazil). Gold, slavery and theft is all the Church and Columbus, the man who started the trans-Atlantic slave trade and Indian slavery, ever cared about (cutting off hands if hawk's bells weren't filled with gold dust from the mines every 3 months).
                                                                                                                                      This is the epitome of white racist imperialism and the beginning of European slavery and subjugation in the new world, continuing 500 years later. Only Bolivia is ruled by an indigenous leader, the rest are conquistadors' white descendents. The writer of this article is either incredibly ignorant or simply beats round the bush. BTW, the US follows this doctrine w/ legal decisions in the Supreme Court, still claiming "god" gave them this land through the pope, hence the right to kick out Native Americans, like the Tee-Hit-Ton.

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