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How History Repeated Itself Through A cinematic experience: how Avatar broadcasted the Columbus experience to hispanola, metaphorically speaking

When Avatar. One of my favorite movies by the amazing James Cameron.  First hit the scene. Many of the first comments referenced its stunning use of new technology. The 3D filming and unique special effects created a cinematic marvel.

The movie’s story, though, is far too familiar for me. The parallels are personal. While some saw it as a repeat of Pocahontas. The truth is that Avatar is closer to a retelling of the brutality of Christopher Columbus. And all the Europeans who overtook America.

Professor Mark Maslin. From the University College London. Stated. And I quote,” deaths of indigenous Americans directly contributed to the success of the European economy”

“The really weird thing is, the depopulation of the Americas may have inadvertently allowed the Europeans to dominate the world,” Maslin said. “It also allowed for the Industrial Revolution and for Europeans to continue that domination.”

A Quest for Riches

It’s no secret that Christopher Columbus was on a search for gold. He was bound to return to his European investors with treasures. The same is true of Parker Selfridge. Head of Resources Development Administration. In Avatar.

While his quest is for unobtainium. The result is the same. Invading already-inhabited lands with dollar signs in his eyes. For metals that rightfully belongs to the natives.

Disregard for the Natives

Throughout Avatar.  We get plenty of glimpses into Parker’s mind. The way he sees the avatars. As mere speed bumps in his path toward wealth.

He doesn’t see them for who they are. Beings simply trying to live their daily lives in peace. But as annoyances who are in his way.

Looking back on history. It’s clear. That Columbus and the other European invaders. Viewed the Native American people. The same way.

They had no respect for the fact that this is the land that the natives had called home. For generations. Their only concern was that there was something in the land that they wanted.

And that the natives were in their way. Even named them. Superiority complex.

Columbus’s men also continued to sexually abuse Taíno women and girls. In 1500, Columbus wrote to an acquaintance that “there are many dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to 10 are now in demand.”

Avatar.  And the history books. Both have the same result from this lack of respect and acknowledgment. A violent invasion on the natives who refused to abandon their homes.

Cultural Destruction

Invaders to the Americas had a long history of toppling the cultures they found.  There were numerous efforts to bulldoze the Native Americans’ religions. And convert them to the Europeans’ beliefs.

For example, in his book The American Revolution in Indian Country, Calloway states that “Colonial officials lamented alcohol’s effects but recognized its usefulness in destabilizing Indian communities” (Calloway 14)

We see this with other groups.  Throughout history as well. Like the African slaves who were forced into Western Christianity as well.

Likewise. Parker Selfridge displays full disregard. And disdain. For the Avatars’ culture and spirituality in Avatar.

Destroying the Tree of Souls. Was merely one glimpse. Into the heartbreak this caused for those who held that tree as sacred.

Seeing the Similarities

Avatar takes on a whole new meaning. When we recognize the heartbreaking truth on that screen. While we all learned the basics of Christopher Columbus.

 There is hope that putting the painful past in front of our eyes will spark a new understanding. Of our history. And new conversations. About how we can learn about our past and prevent it from happening again.

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