¿Una primera epidemia americana de viruela en 1493?

Revista de Indias 01/2003; 63. DOI: 10.3989/revindias.2003.i227.551
Source: DOAJ


We analyze the current debates about the origins of humans in the Western Hemisphere. The work of physical anthropologists and geneticists have forced archeologists to re-examine traditional hypotheses. The dating of the mankind’s migration across the Bering Straits has been pushed back another 10,000 to 15,000 years before the present. At the same time the ties between Paleoindians and East Asians has been further supported and the model of big game hunting as the original pattern of mankind’s socio-economic organization in the Americas has been challenged by new research from South American sites.Documentación dada a conocer últimamente descubre que varios indios tainos llevados por Colón a España para ser enseñados a los Reyes Católicos murieron de viruela en Cádiz al salir la segunda expedición en 1493. Por las condiciones sanitarias reinantes y la aglomeración a bordo, la infección pudo perfectamente afectar a más viajeros y a dar pie a una epidemia. El artículo aporta un elemento nuevo al debate sobre las causas de la rápida desaparición de la población indígena de la Española.

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    ABSTRACT: During the century following Columbus's landfall, the population of America experienced a precipitous decline. A widely accepted explanation is the diffusion of Eurasian pathogens among the nonimmune Indians with the attendant catastrophic mortality. Contemporary observers-conquerors, administrators, missionaries, and chroniclers-while mentioning disease among factors in the decline, were convinced that the demographic collapse was due to a plurality of factors, such as serfdom and the confiscation of labor, excessive work, economic and social dislocation, wars and conflicts, and impediments to reproduction. Reconsideration of historical evidence supports the notion that new pathologies cannot satisfactorily explain the varying demographic impacts of Conquest. The Tainos of the Antilles were on the verge of extinction before the first smallpox epidemics struck the islands in 1518; the Guaranís of Paraguay were flourishing in spite of recurrent epidemics; in Peru civil wars were the major cause of decline during the first two decades of Spanish rule. A reappraisal of the Indian catastrophe must consider-together with the impact of the new viruses-the modes and circumstances of European domination. Copyright 2006 The Population Council, Inc..
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    ABSTRACT: The population levels of the newly discovered western hemisphere at contact have been an object of observers’ attention since the first voyage of Columbus. The numbers that have been developed over time reflected the environments in which they evolved – sometimes they were very high and sometimes very low. The latest of these cycles, dating from the 1940s and still in vogue, reflects the highest numbers, as well as the most elaborate methodology, ever applied to the problem. The results have been estimates that are many times most of those previously advanced, and the mechanism to explain this substantially greater decline has been epidemic European diseases, to which the American Indians had no resistance. The High Counters’ methodology involves taking relatively small numbers in the record and multiplying these many times over to reach new numbers that are ten to twenty times as large. A major component of this practice is to presume that the epidemics in question spread across the hemisphere even before Europeans could assess their impact. For this hypothesis, and for several other elements of the exercise, there is no evidence whatever. Despite this handicap, the new cadres of numbers have themselves spread far and wide and can be found in a variety of sources aimed at various audiences.
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