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The Mosque Discovered by Columbus

And here is somebody who would benefit greatly from taking my course on Hispanic Civilization:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is venturing into alternative history. Speaking to a summit of Latin American Islamic leaders in Istanbul, he said that: “Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus,” Erdogan said. “Muslim sailors arrived in America from 1178. Columbus mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast.”

Spanish conquerors struggled with describing the lands they found to people back home. They constantly compared what they saw with things that readers back home would recognize. Imagine, for instance, that you get to travel to a different galaxy and discover a civilization that is very different from yours. Wouldn’t you be likely to describe it to your readers in terms of your shared frame of reference? Wouldn’t you be likely to say, “It’s as high as the Empire State Building” or “It is shaped like the Eiffel Tower”? Well, that’s precisely what Columbus and the rest of the conquerors did.

Here is what Columbus is said to have written in his diary (the diary itself hasn’t been preserved. We only have a retelling of the diary):

Señala la disposición del río y del puerto que arriba dijo y nombró San Salvador, que tiene sus montañas hermosas y altas como la Peña de los Enamorados, y una de ellas tiene encima otro montecillo a manera de una hermosa mezquita. (Translation: Remarking on the position of the river and port, to which he gave the name of San Salvador, he describes its mountains as lofty and beautiful, like the Peña de los Enamorados, and one of them has another little hill on its summit, like a graceful mosque.)

Obviously, there was no mosque in the “New World.” But there were mosques aplenty back in Spain, which was the country that sponsored Columbus’s journey and was awaiting his report on the findings of the expedition.

Obama’s Speech on Immigration

I’m sick again (talk about the mind-body connection: this semester has been horrible), so I missed Obama’s speech on immigration and pretty much everything else that’s been going on. And today I found everybody obsessed with this hugely earth-shattering speech. So I decided to find out what the hullabaloo was all about and read the transcript. After a lot of “our values blah-blah, our great nation bleh-bleh”, I got to the part with some substance to it:

So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve with been in America more than five years. If you have children who are American citizens or illegal residents. If you register, pass a criminal background check and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.

Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. Only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.

Yeah, wow, that’s totally a big whoop. What a profoundly shocking, enormous transformation of the status quo. “We have no capacity to deport you (as I said at the beginning of the speech), so we are not going to exercise the capacity we admittedly don’t have and won’t deport you.” Yip-dee-do. 

This is so characteristic of Obama. He is constantly trying to sit on two chairs at once and doesn’t seem to notice that this approach just angers everybody. Gosh, just choose a position and stick to it already, whatever it is. 

Yes, yes, I know, this is better than nothing. We all belong to the “it’s better than nothing” and “the other guy is even worse” party.

The First Part of the Last Part

Should we go to see the first part of the last part of the Hunger Games movies? The third book in the series was the weakest. And the film – makers watered that weak book even further. So I’m wondering if it makes sense to watch the movie. Is anybody else going?  Thoughts, suggestions, recommendations?