Sunday, October 12, 2014

Remembering De Soto on Columbus Day

Ah, yes. The day of Columbus... the day that will live in infamy.  In honor of Columbus, let us remember another deranged and bloodthirsty nut-job from Europe who lied, stole and kidnapped his way across lands upon which he was tresspassing: Hernando de Soto.

De Soto made it to the Mississippi river from Florida by lying about his intentions, kidnapping those who welcomed him, and stealing the fruits of their labors.  3 of his thugs kept a record of his violent and treacherous spree of evil.  The startling irony of their accounts would be comical, were it not for the fact that European humanity believed that nonsense.

Their accounts indicate he died of a fever.  How he actually died, we will never know.  What we do know, however, is that his men dumped his corpse in the Mississippi and headed back for home pretty much immediately after his death. 

Those same accounts indicate that he pretty much wore out his welcome, with word getting out to other natives to look out for this nutty, deceitful white guy.  De Soto's crime spree may well have dealt a pretty severe blow to any trust of future peaceful European contacts.  The Southeast was one of the last native hold-outs east of the Mississippi.

He also did a pretty good job of spreading disease.  Animals brought with the interlopers, as well as their proclivity for defecating and urinating near the places they slept and ate spread bacteria and viruses that were foreign to the virgin land.  Disease from the filthy Europeans is likely responsible for the deaths of over half the native population who's immune systems weren't accustomed to humans who didn't cleanse themselves properly. 

Even though bacteria wasn't discovered or the communicability of disease understood, they knew that the Europeans weren't clean and that their filth could bring something very bad.  Many natives would destroy any utensils or dishes and bowls used by Europeans.  The microscopic bugs De Soto brought into the native lands of the southeast did more to prepare the way for eventual European conquest that all the conquistador's lances, swords and weapons combined.

Fields once covered with never before seen produce were left untended.  Only the spirits of those who once tended them know what once grew there.  The Americas gave the world chocolate, vanilla, corn, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, pineapples, chili peppers, sunflowers, peanuts and many, many more foods never seen before in Europe before 1491.  How many wonderful foods and medicines were lost in the American Southeast due to the dastardly De Soto?

Before slinking deep into the black waters of the Mississippi and into the afterlife, De Soto's arrogance and ironic ignorance may have set humanity back centuries, or more.  The loss of life, potential foods and medicines were terrible.  The inability of allegedly civil humans to communicate and make peace with others who were offering peace and civility was the real tragedy.

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