Genocide: A World History- Chapters 3 and 4

As I have progressed further into Genocide: A World History, it has become more interesting to me. The choice to include the Spanish conquistadors in the timeline of genocides in history was a good one. What I found most ironic about the Spanish treatment of the Native Americans is that they were expected to spread Christianity to them, but instead wiped out most of their population. Christianity is centered on forgiveness and love, yet the Spanish only showed the natives violence and brutality. A small detail that Naimark pointed out in chapter three, regarding Columbus’s interest in the native people’s gold jewelry, showed how even the best of intentions can spiral into something terrible. I found it interesting that Columbus’s initial goal did not involve murdering the natives he encountered, yet greed was able to change his mind.

Regarding Cortes, I felt that Naimark did justice in showing how utterly selfish he was, such as the fact that Cortes scuttled his own ships to keep his men from turning back. The little disregard Cortes had for the natives’ culture was infuriating to me. By destroying the records and books of the Aztecs, he was destroying a way of life and a piece of history to be shared with future generations. Pizarro, conquering in the name of God, was likewise just as hypocritical in his venture, blaming the natives for their own massacre. Yet, Naimark summed up the reason for the brutality perfectly: greed and the absence of witnesses allowed the Spanish to ravage and kill with no one there to stop them.

In chapter four, the discussion of the removal of the Yuki in California to a reservation was news to me; in my history classes, we learned about the establishment of California as a state, but never talked about the removal of the Yuki natives at that same time. The fourth chapter, which discussed the colonization of the Americas, Africa, and Australia, raised my awareness to how massacre and genocide is not really talked about when it pertains to our own personal history. For whatever reason, the history of the removal and extermination of native populations is very overlooked, maybe because many think that nothing can be changed now. Yet, Naimark’s detailed discussion of such events only made me feel more obligated to learn more about them.

1. What drove the San people in Africa to carry on through the repeated attempts at their removal?
2. Why was there a divide between how the conquistadors felt about the natives and how the people back in Spain felt about the natives?
3. Why did Cortes commit a cultural genocide over the Aztecs even though the Spanish regarded the Aztec civilization as admirable?

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