An old PBS radio show featuring Paul Harvey was called "The Rest of the Story". In it, he added little known facts and unexpected connections to tales we thought we knew and understood. That show came to mind this week while reading "America's Hidden History" by Kenneth C. Davis, a "Rest of the Story" type book chock full of honest truths about America's roots. Some of those truths are relevant for today, the day in which we Americans celebrate Columbus' landing in this new world.
Remember Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, the ones who bankrolled Columbus' voyage? In my elementary school textbooks, they were portrayed as people who saw the potential in his exploration, no doubt with the possibilities of expanding their own kingdom's reach and power. For a king and queen, good guys.
Or so I thought.
Turns out that they were staunch Roman Catholics and the force behind the horrific Spanish Inquisition. During their reign, Muslims and Jews of Spain were removed from Spain, either by force or by death. Genocide was the fate for all who did not follow Catholicism. Interestingly, Isabella and Ferdinand's daughter, Catherine of Aragon, later became the wife of England's Henry the Eighth. Yikes.
On one of Columbus' later journeys back to America, Queen Isabella suggested he bring pigs on board. The pigs were meant to provide food for the long voyage as well as the beginnings of a conventional European-style farm in the new world. Ends up the pigs brought more than food to these shores. The diseases the pigs harbored, to which the sailors were apparently immune, devastated the nearby Native American population. For the Native Americans, it was clear that these new residents brought nothing but trouble. Not a good tone to set for future relations.
The more I learn, the less I know.
I love that.