Why NOT to celebrate Columbus Day
Columbus Day, which is celebrated today in the USA and honours the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the ‘New World’, is an example of outdated and misguided history. Rather than celebrate, we believe it should be a day to mourn the destruction of an indigenous population which had lived in peace for tens of thousands of years before Columbus – a rapist and murderer – set foot on American soil.
Although Christopher Columbus is credited with ‘discovering’ America, people had been inhabiting both North and South America for thousands of years before the 15 th century criminal explorer actually first set foot there. In fact, a new exhibition in Brazil features more than 100 artefacts dating back as far as 30,000 years ago, 18,000 years earlier than previously believed.
The artefacts include cave paintings and ceramic art depicting animals, hunting expeditions and the daily lives of people who lived around the Serra da Capivara in Brazil for tens of thousands of years.
"To date, these are the oldest traces of human existence in the Americas," said archaeologist Niede Guidon who has headed a mission to carry out large-scale excavation of Piaui's interior since the 1970's. "It's difficult to think there exists a site anywhere with a higher concentration of cave art."
In our opinion, this is something to celebrate, not the arrival of Christopher Columbus who led the way for these indigenous populations to have their culture decimated and their population murdered, displaced or forced into slavery. Columbus’ arrival is seen as the beginning of civilization in the Americas. But what exactly does it mean to be civilized? Let’s look at Columbus himself, to see if he meets the definition.
The reason Columbus set sail on his epic journey in the first place was because he raped the 13-year-old daughter of a Spanish Duchess. Columbus couldn’t be killed without angering the Italian court, so Queen Isabella sent him on a mission, hoping he wouldn’t return.
When Columbus first landed on American soil he was met by the Arawak native Americans. He and his crew were greeted with smiles, gifts and food. He wrote in his log:
“They brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things … they willingly traded everything they owned … They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance.… They would make fine servants … With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
It is on public record, that Columbus rewarded his soldiers by giving them Native Americans to rape. At times, they would make an example of a Native by cutting his hands off and tying them around his neck, then telling him to go and 'share the message' with the rest of his tribe. Other times they would go and massacre an entire village. If this is what it means to be civilized and our children are taught to revere Columbus and his ‘heroic adventure’, what hope is there for our future?
Aside from the despicable acts that Columbus and his people committed, there is plenty of evidence to show that Columbus was not the first foreigner to arrive on the continent anyway. In fact, there is proof that the Chinese, Greeks and Italians, all explored America before Columbus. It’s just that Columbus was the ‘brave’ one to stake his claim to a land that did not belong to him.
So before waving the US flag in celebration of a criminal who did not discover America, spare a thought for the millions of Native Americans who were murdered as a result of Christopher Columbus’ arrival on American soil.
Along and through History, conquerors have had violent behaviour. Not many civilizations were safe when invaders arrived, from Assirians to Vikings; from Gengis Khan to the Roman Empire; from the Jewish general Joshua to the colonial British Empire. If we blame Columbus and the Spanish kings, we should also blame every other invader and conqueror in History.
Columbus Day means that finally, America was economically assimilated to Europe, in those times peopled by Western dominant civilizations. If instead of Columbus, a Chinese marine had arrived first and "colonized" America, would be blaming the Chinese for the destruction of American civilizations? If Columbus had been an Englishman, or a Frenchman, would have they behaved in a different way? I doubt it. Just bear in mind that the verb "colonize" and the terms "colony", and "colonial" derive from... Columbus ("Colon", in Spanish spelling).