The Caribbean must help erase and correct the colossal Columbus lie
As they’ve always done for as long as all alive can remember, Saint Lucians on December 13 celebrated a dubious “National Day” holiday on a date with no place in the island’s history.
For centuries, December 13 was celebrated here as “Discovery Day”, following taught belief that Christopher Columbus “discovered” the island on that date in 1502.
That also being the date of the Feast of Saint Lucy (the Catholic patron saint for the blind), Columbus was said to have named the island after her.
But Columbus’ own diaries have proven he never saw Saint Lucia, as they recorded him as being somewhere else on that date – closer to ‘El Dorado’ (Guyana) on the South American mainland than the small island’s majestic twin peaks, The Pitons.
His own accounts showed that Columbus lied – or was lied about. But rather than dispense with the traditional holiday when it became known that it had no root purpose, the Saint Lucia government instead rechristened it “National Day”.
Saint Lucia now has the dubious title of the only country in the world to have both a National Day, followed soon after by an Independence Day (February 22).
But just as the island has been reluctant to come to terms with correcting or erasing a historical lie, so too is all of Latin America and the Caribbean on the threshold of possibly having to wake up soon to the fact that the entire region may also have been living another Columbus lie – and for even longer.
As it turns out, a recent major media event in South America can now set the stage for perhaps the biggest Columbus lie to be erased – and corrected.
Two dozen journalists and media managers from nine CARICOM nations were among over 100 participants in the first China-Latin America Media Summit held in Chile’s capital, Santiago, on November 22 and 23.
The Chinese and South Americans in the conference hall at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) had never met. But this was hardly the first encounter between China and South America.
China has today surpassed the USA and the European Union (EU) as the biggest trading partner of its South American allies. Trade with the region increased by 20 times in the past decade, reaching US$236.5 billion in 2015.
China is also now the second largest trading partner and third largest investment source in Latin America, while South America is China’s seventh largest trading partner.
During the Chinese president’s three-nation November trip to Chile, Ecuador and Peru, he also announced several new measures to share China’s development opportunities with Latin American (and Caribbean) countries.
But if history now being unfolded proves true, the current quick pace and growing volume of Chinese exchanges with The Americas is the eventual natural outcome of much earlier encounters that are barely recorded – and only now being disclosed.
Documents and maps on hand in China and Europe claim that Chinese navigators passed through South America and the Caribbean much earlier than the Europeans. They show what their owners say is irrefutable evidence that the Chinese arrived in “The Americas” in 1421 – all of seven decades before Christopher Columbus.
Liu Gang, a Chinese corporate lawyer, has for 15 years been showing around a 1763 map copied from an earlier one dated 1421. The inscription by the original author said it was “a sketch of the world made during the 16th year of the reign of Yong of the Ming Dynasty (1418)…”
Liu’s map was the first of its time to show the Earth as being round. Its main features of the continents are detailed with near-accurate precision.
He thus confidently told the China Today newspaper in Beijing in 2005: “This map proves that Zheng He (1371-1433), commander of the Ming fleet, discovered America, the North Pole and the South Pole, and sailed around the world before 1418.”
In August 2005, an exhibition was held at the National Museum of Beijing for Zheng He, the then admiral of China’s Imperial Fleet, displaying the great expeditions he led.
Each trip, made between 1404 and 1433, lasted two years; and each comprised up to 100 ships and more than 20,000 men. His expeditions eventually toured 35 countries in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
In 2005, Liu was bolstered in his claim after he read a book entitled “1421 – The Year China Discovered the World” by Gavin Menzies – and from its contents he confirmed his conviction that his map is the real deal.
In his book – launched two years earlier in 2003 – Menzies, a former British Royal Navy submarine captain and an astrologer with a world of experience crossing the said oceans underwater and by the stars, provides what he says is clear evidence that Chinese navigators indeed landed in The Americas in 1421, while circumnavigating the world.
Like Liu, Menzies also has an earlier map of the world — from Venice and dated 1424 — showing geographical data, including islands, territories and profiles of the eastern American coasts.
Based on the maps and his long years of research, Menzies’ thesis is that Zheng He’s fleet crossed into the Atlantic Ocean from the Horn of Africa and split in two groups: one was sent to The Antilles and the other crossed the Magellan Strait to explore the western coast of The Americas.
In 2006, 500 years after Columbus died, the maps and documents in Liu and Menzies’ hands revealed what both insisted are clear and distinct possibilities that it was not the Italian explorer, or his European successors, who led the expeditions that drew the earliest maps of the world.
Liu’s claims had not fallen on deaf ears.
According to Michael Porcheron in an article in the May 7, 2006, issue of Cuba’s Granma newspaper entitled “500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus, unless…”, “The Chinese armada was at that time the most powerful in the world, due to the number and size of its ships, the number of its sailors and the modernity of the technology employed.”
The early Chinese explorers were mainly interested in drawing maps for new lands. Zheng He had been ordered by the imperial rulers to, “travel to the end of the Earth and back”. They therefore came, saw, landed, exchanged gifts, panted plants, left birds and animals, drew maps – and moved on.
The later Europeans, however, forcibly destroyed the advanced civilizations they found and brutally converted native people and cultures into their own images and likeness.
For five centuries, the Europeans transformed the so-called “new world” into fountains of fortune to feed and build their empires.
Caribbean people of African and Indian descent today have largely accepted that they were transplanted from their homes to faraway lands and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is jointly seeking reparations for slavery and native genocide from Britain and the European states that designed, implemented and benefited from the slave trade.
But Afro and Indo-Caribbean citizens also still largely believe – as they were (and are still being) taught at school: that Christopher Columbus “discovered the New World” when he and his later followers first landed in “The Americas” and “The West Indies”.
Some 510 years after their recorded first encounter, China and The Americas have again re-connected big-time! But, truth be told, neither side seems sufficiently aware of the treasures in Liu and Menzies’ hands and the startling illustrations and historical truths being offered in the British naval submarine captain and astrologer’s detailed and lengthy bestselling book.
History written to suit
The Europeans wrote world history to suit Europe. But China and The Americas have also shaped and written their own history, in their own image and likeness – and these untold stories too, must also be sought and found, told and shared.
The press and media of all three sides of this New Triangle – China, Latin America and the Caribbean – can indeed seek and find, tell and share the many untold stories in this big ongoing and constantly unfolding story.
If Liu’s and Menzies’ maps and the facts are true, then China’s historic first engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean is approaching 600 years.
That would also mean that the narrative about the China-LAC connection today must be changed. Headlines will always be found. But despite the many road maps left by history, the related and untold stories waiting to be researched, discovered and told, are countless.
The media in China, Latin America and the Caribbean can use the next five years leading to the 600th anniversary of China’s first encounter with The Americas (in 2021) to help the rest of the world learn more about what it has not known for close to six centuries.
This is a new opportunity for the press in China, Latin America and the Caribbean to engage actively in the possible discovery of hitherto unknown facts about the true history of the world.
Europe is dead silent on their claims and most unlikely wouldn’t want to see Liu’s and Menzies’ claims proven true. But those with the evidence are not sitting back and waiting,
Menzies and Liu have together developed a joint “media” plan of action that have already drawn the attention of thousands of Chinese, European and Latin American counterpart naval historians, cartographers and astrologers, researchers and archivists. But while their works still are widely unknown across Latin America and the Caribbean, others elsewhere are indeed taking note.
According to their plan, Liu started showing his map around in Beijing 10 years ago (January 2006) and a week later at Britain’s National Navy Museum in Greenwich. Also that same month, the complete history of the map was revealed in The Economist magazine in an article indicating the matter should be taken seriously.
Menzies has also taken the issue to the Internet and all the facts are on his website (in English, Spanish, Chinese and Polish).
According to the China Daily, “This controversial but appealing theory has gained credibility with the presentation of the map.”
A process of international verification of Liu’s and Menzies’ maps slowly got under way (a decade ago) after they started gaining attention of thousands of scholars and historians, astronomers, cartographers and naval experts worldwide.
Expectedly, the process is not only proceeding dead slow, but also without end.
However, 510 years after Columbus died, Caribbean, Latin American and Chinese journalists can draw-up an equally appropriate action plan and road map, for and to, what — in five short years — can very well be the 600th anniversary of China’s first encounter with Latin America and the Caribbean.
Trilateral media cooperation
This necessary campaign must be initiated and concluded between now and 2021, to ensure, for the benefit of the whole world, the telling of the whole truth of who had the first encounter with South America — Zheng He, with his 100-strong fleet in 1421, or Christopher Columbus, with his three ships in 1492?
If and when finally authenticated, Liu’s and Menzies’ maps and documents will shake the very foundations of Europe’s universally accepted accounts of world history. Thus, actual verification of what is obviously an uncomfortable truth could very well be the subject of calculatedly interminable institutional delays.
The year “1421” can be the basis for all-round trilateral and multilateral media cooperation in pursuit of the real truth by the world’s press.
Saint Lucia is still reluctant to swallow its sour bit. But like the rest of the Caribbean, it also has particular interest in determining whether the whole basis for Columbus’ historical fame for the past five centuries has just been an entire colossal lie.
Indeed, the entire world – and not only the press – has a stake in pursuit of this particular historical truth!
• Earl Bousquet is editor-at-large of The Diplomatic Courier and author of the regional newspaper column entitled Chronicles of a Chronic Caribbean Chronicler. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.
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