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'Columbus was a cruel tyrant'

Documentary evidence show "hidden face" of the man lauded in the West as the so-called discoverer of America.

india Updated: Jul 15, 2006 10:48 IST

Explorer Christopher Columbus was a cruel and greedy tyrant who ruled the first land he annexed in the New World with a brutal disregard for humanity, according to documents published in Madrid.

The documents, discovered in 2005 at the Simancas Archives in Valladolid, northern Spain, quotes 23 contemporary witnesses to Columbus's brutality after he subjugated what is now the Dominican Republic in 1492.

They provide further evidence of the "hidden face" of the man lauded in the West as the so-called discoverer of America, according to Spanish historian Consuelo Varela.

She said the explorer "ruled the colony in a tyrannical fashion" and demonstrated "great greed".

In one example, she said Columbus ordered that a woman have her tongue cut off and be paraded nude on the back of a donkey because she dared to say that he came from an inferior class.

He "applied justice without judgement, would not distribute supplies to the colonists and would not allow natives to be baptised so that they could be used as slaves," the historian told reporters.

The island of Santo Domingo, as it was known then, became the launching pad for Columbus's exploration and conquest of the Caribbean and America.

In decades following Columbus' arrival, between 12 and 20 million native Americans were killed or fell victim to diseases brought in by the Spanish.

Ancient civilisations such as the Maya, the Aztecs or the Inca were destroyed, while the continent saw its mineral riches pillaged and its cultural dignity violated.