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Please forward this error screen to 173. Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto theisland’s beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and hissailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought themfood, water, gifts. They willingly traded everything they owned . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features. They do not bear arms, and donot know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out ofignorance.
Their spears are made of cane . As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives byforce in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in theseparts. The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold? Its population, mostly poor peasants, worked for the nobility, who were 2 percent of thepopulation and owned 95 percent of the land. Spain had tied itself to the Catholic Church, expelledall the Jews, driven out the Moors.
Like other states of the modern world, Spain sought gold, whichwas becoming the new mark of wealth, more useful than land because it could buy anything. There was gold in Asia, it was thought, and certainly silks and spices, for Marco Polo and othershad brought back marvelous things from their overland expeditions centuries before. Portuguese sailors were working their way around the southern tipof Africa. Spain decided to gamble on a long sail across an unknown ocean. Columbus would never have made it to Asia, which was thousands of miles farther away than hehad calculated, imagining a smaller world.
He would have been doomed by that great expanse ofsea. One-fourth of the way there he came upon an unknown, uncharted land thatlay between Europe and Asia-the Americas. It was early October 1492, and thirty-three days sincehe and his crew had left the Canary Islands, off the Atlantic coast of Africa. Then, on October 12, a sailor called Rodrigo saw the early morning moonshining on white sands, and cried out. It was an island in the Bahamas, the Caribbean sea. The firstman to sight land was supposed to get a yearly pension of 10,000 maravedis for life, but Rodrigonever got it. Columbus claimed he had seen a light the evening before.