Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Columbus Day, hmm?

So, I had said that I was going to rant about Columbus Day and, even though it is a day after, I figured I would post a couple of my thoughts. First, I just don't see the validity of the holiday in any way, except that they have an Italian-American parade in NYC, San Fran and elsewhere. But there are many other Italians I would think would deserve a holiday much more than Columbus. Say, Leonardo da Vinci? Any of the great Renaissance thinkers for that matter.

So, what did Columbus do that is so deserving of a holiday? He discovered the "new world"? Well, I think we know the several problems with that - first, there were people here already so you can't discover something that has already been discovered. Well, he discovered it for the Europeans? Or "re-discovered" it? And of course we know the problem with that - the Vikings "re-discovered" it, not Columbus. And besdies, the Vikings were at least exploring a region they knew was there (they at least knew Greenland was out there we think). Columbus thought he was in India or the islands off S.E. Asia. So, what are we really celebrating then? That Columbus was the third different type of person to land in the western hemisphere and that he had no idea where he was! Hmmmm...

And secondly and more importantly, Columbus did not treat the natives very well at all. Now, I don't necessarily blame him more than I would Cortes et al, but Cortes does not have his own holiday now does he? I looked up Columbus Day on Wikipedia (just to tie this in with our class a little bit!), and there is a good entry on the opposition to it. Among other things, it said:

"In recent years, the holiday has been rejected by many people who view it as a celebration of conquest and genocide by the Spaniards. In its place, Indigenous Peoples Day is sometimes celebrated (I like this much better!). In the U.S. Virgin Islands, "Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands Friendship Day" is celebrated on the same day as Columbus Day, due to the controversy surrounding the atrocities committed against the indigenous peoples of the present-day Caribbean during the Spanish colonization the New World (this is fine too)."

Columbus, while he did not wipe out an entire civilization a la Cortes, he did kill hundreds, if not thousands, of natives. And his presence of course led to the death of millions of natives via future conquests and disease. So, I ask again, who and what are we actually supposed to be celebrating here???


At 15 October, 2006 06:56, Blogger Dieter Stenger said...

SAS- good points. I like your down-to earth candor. I guess I helped perpetuate the fallacy of the holiday by going to my 8-year old daughter's elementary school and gave a presentation on the ships they used to "discover" the "nothing new" world. I could care less about Columbus, but the kids loved it. I received some wooden boat hulls and various parts so the kids could make their own Santa Maria, Nina, or Pinta. Somewhere I read that either the Nina or the Pinta was named after a hooker? Of course, I didn't talk about the bees...



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