Monday, January 6, 2020

Encounter- Children' Book Review

“Encounter” is a fictional (children’s) book about a fictional character and what the author imagines might have been the Taino perspective of Columbus’ arrival to the Americas. The book is short, the illustrations are well done, but the story directly or indirectly propagates the Spanish Black Legend and the Myth of the Noble Savage. That is, the myth that Spanish people were evil while the natives were angels. The book gives the impression the natives were strangers to conquest, war, and slavery, even though those practices were universal. 

In the book, the main character, a Taino kid, tries to warn his people about the Spaniards, due to a bad dream he had about them, but no one listens to him because he is just a kid. The book ends with the Taino kid years later, now an adult, reflecting how they lost their lands to strangers and gave their souls to their “gods,” even though we Christians believe in one God.

However, we don’t have to imagine the Taino’s perspective since we know what they thought about Columbus. In the real story of Columbus, the Tainos believed he came from Heaven to save them from the Caribs, who constantly raided them, killing the men, raping the women, castrating the young boys and sometimes cannibalizing entire islands. That part of the story is not in the book. Also, in the real story of Columbus, there was an actual Taino kid who was Columbus’ interpreter and became his godson when he got baptized in Spain as a Christian. (Source: Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem by Delaney, ch. 6, p.120. See also Oviedo’s Historia, Lib II, Cap. VII). Contrary to the suggested fiction by Encounter, the Tainos were Columbus’ allies and not his enemies. 

In the “Author’s Note” section, the author repeats many misconceptions made by modern authors about Columbus. For example, the author implies the natives received Columbus with gifts, but it was Columbus who gave them gifts first, and later they came to reciprocate. In addition, it was not Columbus who believed he was in the Indies, but everyone else in the Old World did. One of the reasons why we say “Columbus discovered America” is precisely because he was not in the Indies, but in another continent the Old World did not know to exist. The author also incorrectly claims that the handful of natives Columbus took with him to Spain (during his first voyage) were slaves. Not true. In fact, they were received and treated with great honor in Spain. 

The author repeats one of the fallacies revisionists usually use against Columbus: That he is to blame for the atrocities that happened to the natives 50 years after the discovery. The obvious problem with this false claim is that not even Columbus’ sons were alive 50 years after the discovery of 1492. Columbus died in 1506 and most of the time he was exploring. Furthermore, Columbus himself either reported or punished any Spaniard who mistreated the natives, as he was requested to do by the Queen of Spain. The atrocities that happened later, after he was out of office or dead, were illegal and denounced by the crown and by every primary historical source of the era. 

The sad thing is that someone used this fictional children’s book as a “source” for an elementary school, and now the school decided to renamed Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day for this year 2020. See the link below.

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