Take yourself back—back to two weeks ago Monday, to Columbus Day.
Go farther than that, though. Take
yourself to Columbus, Ohio, and to a play that tells the story of the discovery
of the West Indes by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
Now imagine an Amerindian walking onstage during the production—not one
from our time, but one from that day in 1492 when Columbus first set foot on the
soil of what history would call the New World.
The Amerindian demands to speak to Columbus, who suddenly steps onto the
scene. Imagine them, using all the
knowledge that you have on the subject, retelling the tale—the true tale—of
What you have just done is what playwright Charles Smith did when he wrote City of Gold, a tale about Columbus, his search for El Dorado—the mythical city of gold—and the Amerindians and the inability to understand each other’s words. The conflict in the play extends from one major problem: bad translation. The lack of understanding between the European explorers and the Amerindians is solely the fault of miscommunication. This play makes one wonder how history might have been different if Columbus and his fellows had understood the Amerindians he encountered in the West Indes.