Christopher Columbus landed in the new world in December 1492 on an island he named La Espanola. The indigenous Taino people for whom the island was home called it Ayiti (Haiti).
In his journal Columbus lauded Haiti as “the most beautiful thing in the world…the Paradise of God”. He called the Taino, “loving people, without covetousness… who love their neighbors as themselves…”
They were an example of the Way of Jesus in the world.
The historian Las Casas testifies that they “never committed against the Spaniards any one moral offense punishable by the law of man.” Nevertheless, the Taino were enslaved and compelled to work. Being regarded as natural resources themselves, their labor would eventually provide half of Europe with sugar, coffee and cotton.
By 1514, scholars estimate that a population between 500, 000 and 750, 000 Taino had been reduced to 29, 000. Other more grievous statistics are recorded. Ralph Korngold claims that when “Columbus discovered [sic!] Haiti it had a population between 1, 000, 000 and 3, 000, 000 and that when Oviedo visited the island in 1535 there were less than 500 of the original inhabitants left
A holiday for the conqueror is the day of wrath for the conquered.
In light of this history, let’s give this Columbus Day to the people of Haiti who suffered most for it. As the people of God, we can take back the Red Letters of Jesus from Columbus who profaned them. We can love our poorest neighbor as ourselves. We can give to Haiti in this time of crisis.