Motives of Influence to Author and Reader
We are told in the beginning of the first journey that Columbus was given information to “set out and make a fresh discovery of these islands” after centuries of lost knowledge on the matter, so it is technically not a true “discovery” but re-discovery, and it is said so outright on page 27, complete with logical explanation.
It is important to be informed of the motives one carries while traveling, especially whilst going about a dangerous, potentially unknown voyage. This allows us to recognize the purpose of this expedition, and put the journey in the framework of the desired outcome as well as the essential purpose of the writings. To know the motive of travel, why exactly the expedition was made, gives us much knowledge to the insight of the journey, and allows us to balance its bias with proper mindset.
What really struck me as influential, even though it happens at the same time to be remarkably obvious, are the exact motives (and in turn, outcome) for Christopher Columbus’ “First Voyage”. Notably hasty, as he even describes himself in Christopher’s Letter on His First Voyage:
“ In conclusion, to speak only of the results of this very hasty voyage, their Highnesses can see that I will give them as much gold as they require, if they will render me some very slight assistance;... and as many slaves, who will be taken from the idolaters” (122).
Essentially, what fuels this discovery of new land is greed; greed for gold, greed for “saved souls”, greed for spices, cotton, aloe, and most essentially land. It is interesting, in this time of conquest, to see the level of demand for new wealth and new land that inspired life-risking, undoubtedly dangerous travel. What is even more interesting is the amount of fascination, applause, and praise it brings to be able to provide the sponsors, Ferdinand and Isabella, with these treasures that Christopher Columbus has “discovered”.
In regards to their obvious purpose of their quest (greed) Columbus’ men did everything they could to influence the natives that they were their friends, only to establish a good reputation for them to take advantage of them in the future.
Even though I have been quite aware those from Europe (and of course here we are talking about Columbus, “originally”) came and not only integrated, but displaced, enslaved, and decimated millions of native peoples to make for the country we live and thrive in today, as well as up and down the Americas, a certain sadness comes over me, knowing that countless cultures and ways of life, beautiful and unique, have been forever lost, taken advantage of because of conquest and advancements of industry by Europeans. The knowledge, and sacred customs of many ancient cultures have now been lost forever, and replaced with a new culture that combines many different ways of life from all over the world.
It is not to say one is the better than another, I just personally find diversity beautiful and there is a bitter-sweetness to travel and change perpetuated by greed, racism, and colonialism which are so blatant in this book. On the other side, these motives of conquest were the norms of the time and set about in their own cultural fabric. We can only look to what has made our past and try to improve ourselves for the future.
(this image was one I had found long ago and am not sure of the exact source)