Some of Columbus's Contributions Deserve Credit

The author of the Opinion page article "Putting Columbus In His Place," March 11, entirely misses the point. He appears to have overlooked the main focus of the quincentennial, which is not the figure of Columbus, but the tremendous consequences of his voyages to the Americas.

The author glibly dismisses the biological and cultural exchange initiated by Columbus. However, this attitude flies in the face of the facts. The introduction of potatoes to the Irish, horses to the native Americans, and corn to Africa, among hundreds of other examples, has profoundly affected humanity.

It is true that atrocities were committed. What the author fails to recognize, however, is that these acts were not encouraged or condoned at the time. Even Columbus was censured by Queen Isabella for his ill-treatment of Indians. The same society that produced admittedly greedy conquistadors also gave birth to the whole concept of human rights. Distinguished churchmen and thinkers like Antonio de Montesinos, Francisco de Vitoria, and Bartolome de las Casas decried the abuses and successfully pushed for legislation to safeguard the Indians. The author hangs a crooked picture when he leaves out men like Fray Toribio de Benavente, whose selfless devotion earned him the Taino nickname "Motolinea" (the poor one).

The next time the author looks for eggs to throw at poor old Christopher Columbus, he would do well to remember that chickens are a European import and that tired stereotypes are a poor substitute for thoughtful, balanced arguments. John-Marshall Klein, Washington

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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