How Hot Is It, Columbo? Off-Ramp 8-28-2010

Goodbye, Columbus Day. Hello #ColumboDay!

NBC

Peter Falk as Columbo

It's Columbus Day, honoring, as anthropologist Jack Weatherford puts it, the man "who opened the Atlantic slave trade and launched one of the greatest waves of genocide known in history:"

Autumn would hardly be complete in any elementary school without construction-paper replicas of the three cute ships that Columbus sailed to America, or without drawings of Queen Isabella pawning her jewels to finance Columbus' trip.

This myth of the pawned jewels obscures the true and more sinister story of how Columbus financed his trip. The Spanish monarch invested in his excursion, but only on the condition that Columbus would repay this investment with profit by bringing back gold, spices, and other tribute from Asia. This pressing need to repay his debt underlies the frantic tone of Columbus' diaries as he raced from one Caribbean island to the next, stealing anything of value.

After he failed to contact the emperor of China, the traders of India or the merchants of Japan, Columbus decided to pay for his voyage in the one important commodity he had found in ample supply - human lives. He seized 1,200 Taino Indians from the island of Hispaniola, crammed as many onto his ships as would fit and sent them to Spain, where they were paraded naked through the streets of Seville and sold as slaves in 1495. Columbus tore children from their parents, husbands from wives. On board Columbus' slave ships, hundreds died; the sailors tossed the Indian bodies into the Atlantic.

-- Anthropologist Jack Weatherford, Macalaster College

So instead of Columbus, let's honor Columbo!

Here's my 2010 interview with William Link, co-creator of "Columbo," along with "Mannix" and "Murder, She Wrote." Link explains how he and his partner came up with the idea of Columbo, and why they didn't approach it as a "whodunit."


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