What happened to the Hispaniola Arawak population when Christopher Columbus and his Spanish settlers arrived?

Convinced that vast reserves of gold lay somewhere on Hispaniola, Christopher Columbus and his settlers set the Arawak to work searching for the yellow ore.

Little more than gold dust in streams could be found. Unwilling to go away empty-handed, the Spaniards shipped some Arawak back to Spain as slaves and forced others to work on plantations.

Working conditions were terrible. Murder and mutilation were routine punishments. Rebellion was futile; the Spanish were armed with muskets and swords.

Many Arawak killed themselves to escape slavery; others died of overwork or diseases brought by the Spanish.

By 1550, the Hispaniola Arawak population had been almost entirely wiped out.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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