Christopher Columbus was a hero to some and a villain to others. He was a brave explorer, but he also enslaved, murdered and stole from native people across the Americas. He first met the Arawak natives in the Bahamas in 1492. They generously traded everything they owned. Columbus saw this as a weakness. He wrote in his journal, “They brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things. They do not bear arms, and do not know them. They would make fine servants.”
Eleven years later, Christopher Columbus was still taking advantage of the Arawak’s hospitality.
On his fourth and final voyage in 1503 Columbus found himself in dire straits. Shipworms had destroyed two of his ships. He was forced to abandon them and send the rest of his ships to an island we now know as Jamaica.
The Arawaks were initially keen to help Columbus. They offered him and his sailors food and shelter. However, after six months, tensions grew. The ships had still not been repaired. Some of Columbus’s crew had mutinied and started to run amok on the island robbing and murdering some of the natives. The Arawaks also grew tired of trading fresh food for Columbus’s trinkets. They decided to burn their bridges with the visitors and cut off their food supply.
Faced with starvation, the crafty Columbus studied his almanac. He learned that on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 29th, 1504, a total lunar eclipse would occur.
He met with the Arawak chief three days before the eclipse and said his Christian god was angry with the natives for no longer supplying his men with food. He said in three nights time his god would make the moon red with anger.
Just as Columbus said, the moon rose and slowly turned blood red as it passed into the shadow of the earth. Columbus’s son Ferdinand said the Arawaks were terrified.
He wrote how they howled in fear and came running to the ships. They screamed and begged Columbus to ask his god for mercy.
They promised they would cooperate with Columbus if he would turn the moon back to normal. Columbus said he would talk privately with his god.
Columbus spent 50 minutes in his cabin calculating the end of the eclipse. He reappeared and announced his god had forgiven the Arawaks. Almost in the same instance the moon slowly began to reappear in all its glory.
To show their gratitude the Arawaks kept Columbus and his men well fed until they returned to Spain on November 7th.