When I think of Columbus Day, it reminds me of two things:
One, most students stay home because it’s a major federal ‘holiday’ and Two, it’s just another Monday holiday and the transit system, which already blows, to virtually shut down.
But, there’s one important thing I know about the holiday: it celebrates a man who does not deserve the honor to be remembered favorably by history.
When I heard that most cities and states, like Vermont, Maine, and New Mexico were changing ‘Columbus Day’ to ‘National Indigenous People’s Day,’ I was thrilled. It’s important to include cultures and races adversely affected by Christopher Columbus’s quest to explore what he called the ‘West Indies’ or historically known as Hispanola.
However, the holiday ignores how the subsequent colonization of millions of people and the genocide, cannot be swept under the rug with a celebration of the very man who caused it. But wait, some would say “that’s a huge generalization of the exploration of the new world!”
It’s not, not entirely, I suppose. In many of our primary and secondary educational experiences, we learned that Columbus discovered America through rhymes or by dressing up like him and creating presentations to teach our class. We learned what the man did and how he did it (in vague terms).
For crying out loud, my former middle school is named after him, like most schools in this country. And, we were separated by the names of his three famous ships: Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, (thank heavens that have changed also).
Yet, the proverbial ‘curtain’ was lifted from our eyes in high school and we learned Columbus’ true motives for sailing to the ‘new world.’
Colombus didn’t even mean to come to the ‘America’s,’ but was looking for an easier trade route to India because he had promised the Spanish king and queen that he could get riches from the ‘new world.’
But, as I and many of my college classmates have learned-Columbus did horrible things and committed cruel acts toward innocent people for the sake of spices, gold, silver and treasure.
Anyway, the point is, the name ‘Columbus Day’ is an outdated name for the celebration of the “discovery” of the new world when we all know who was here before Columbus and the rest of his cronies came along.
It’s 2019, the time for the exclusivity of a multitude of cultures and Indigenous People should be long over. Yet, it’s ironic, considering the United States has a history of welcoming those who are from diverse backgrounds and cultures, with a symbol of “welcome to this country!” via the Statue of Liberty…
When there’s some who refuse to change the name and blatantly ignore that Indigenous People discovered America long before Columbus came along its stormy shores.
And there are others who celebrate the holiday because of its a reminder of Spain’s history of exploration and Spanish culture which has spread to most continents on Earth. The Dominican Republic, which is where I’m from, has both Spanish and African influence and culture because of Columbus’ voyage.
But I can’t and haven’t ignored the mere destruction the men Columbus left behind caused for the native people of the island, the Tainos. Their actions affect some of the social issues that the country has today.
And it doesn’t extinguish the frustration and injustice I feel, Indigenous People both past and present of this country, have to deal with and to top it off, do not get celebrated as Christopher Columbus does with their own day, either?
It’s a step in the right direction that more states in the US are changing the name to reflect the inclusivity this country has had for centuries.
But those who are upset about the name change almost seem to have ignored the legitimate claims of those who have ancestry from the very same people who have been treated poorly by history.
Now, it’s important to remember that people have the right to be offended and upset at this name change because it’s free speech and everyone is allowed to state their feelings (whether we agree with it or not).
Yet, it’s disheartening and eye-opening when I read on sites like Facebook or Twitter people attacking and bashing each other for either supporting the states who are making this change of name or stating their reasons and sounding a bit well, closed-minded.