Still, I am fingering Isabella of Castile for causing all this mess.
Why it is Isabella’s fault (sort of)
It all began with Columbus’ second voyage to America in June 1493. For this voyage, he was given more funds and a larger crew consisting of 1500 settlers. As many people know, Isabella was bankrolling the voyage and she wanted to make sure her business venture was profitable. So she advised Columbus to do the sensible thing when taking a long voyage….make sure to pack some pigs.
The pig suggestion proved even smarter than packing spare underware for several reasons:
- The pigs became a valuable source of protein for hungry settlers. I have no idea why anyone would want to eat the star of Charlotte’s Web, but if you are so inclined, a pig’s flesh yields 65-85 percent meat and I am told it tastes pretty good too.
- They were pretty self-sufficient. Have you seen what a pig will eat? It’s not pretty. They also will run you over for food. The Native American certainly didn’t appreciate them eating all their corn and named them “Spanish beasts.”
- They are really horny. Female pigs will start breeding as young as nine months and will give birth to as many as twelve little piglets. That makes for an ongoing food supply.
- They poop everywhere. No need for chemical fertilizers.
- The Spanish used them as piggy inquisitors. Jewish people obviously didn't eat pork so if Columbus saw someone passing on the pork chop then he immediately pinned them for a Jew. Darn snitching pigs!
So there you have it. Blame Isabella. Or blame Columbus. Put please don't blame the pigs.
Sources and Further Reading:
Davis, C, Kenneth. America's Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped a Nation, New York, NY: Harper Paperbacks, 2009.
PBS, American Experience: We Shall Remain, 2009