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Rotten History - December 10

On This Day in Rotten History...

In 1510 – (506 years ago) – forces of the Portuguese navy, led by the admiral Afonso de Albuquerque and assisted by local mercenaries, seized the prosperous, centuries-old port city of Goa on India’s west coast. The Portuguese, who had briefly held Goa earlier that year and then lost it to a local sultan, now retook the city in less than a day, defeating the sultan and putting large numbers of the Muslim population to death by the sword. Men, women, and children were massacred, and Albuquerque allowed his troops to spend three days sacking the city. Though the conquest took place against the wishes of the Portuguese king, it gave him an important colonial port and commercial capital which remained under Portuguese control for more than 450 years until it was finally reclaimed and annexed by India in 1961. To this day, Goa remains perhaps the most culturally European-influenced city in India, and the only one in which soccer is more popular than cricket. 

In 1796 – (220 years ago) – in Caracas, Venezuela, José Leonardo Chirino, a free farmer of mixed African and indigenous blood, was hanged for the crime of leading a slave revolt in the sugar plantations of the Spanish New World colonies. Chirino had been inspired by the ongoing slave rebellion in Haiti, which would later prove successful in establishing an independent republic there. He had also been deeply affected by the ideals of the faraway French Revolution. In the eastern Veneuzelan city of Coro, he led an uprising of Congolese slaves, with the aim of expelling the Spanish and abolishing slavery and white supremacy. But when his rebellion failed, he was betrayed by an associate. The Spanish authorities executed Chirino, cut his body into pieces, put his head on public display, and sold his wife and children into slavery.

In 1907 – (109 years ago) – in the Battersea district of London, about a thousand medical students of University College and other schools staged a demonstration supporting the practice of vivisection, in which living, conscious animals were cut open, operated on for purposes of medical research and instruction, and then killed. Public passions had been aroused by the court trial of a medical lecturer who, according to witnesses, had muzzled and bound a brown terrier in his classroom, cut it open to remove internal organs, and subjected it to electric shocks, all while the dog struggled and tried to escape. After a jury found the doctor not guilty and awarded him monetary compensation for the insult to his reputation, outraged anti-vivisectionists commissioned a public statue and fountain in memory of the brown dog. When offended medical students arrived to tear down the statue, it turned into a riot involving some four hundred police officers. It was but the worst of many violent clashes around that time that pitted medical students against Marxists, trade unionists, and suffragists who empathized with the suffering of innocent animals. The Brown Dog memorial was vandalized so many times, and required such heavy police guard, that after three years the local authorities removed it. A new memorial to the dog was erected at the same site in 1985.   

Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi

Rotten History


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