Columbus Day, or No?

By Doménica Michelle Montaño '20

Dave Sanders for the New York Times, 2017

Dave Sanders for the New York Times, 2017

Every second Monday of October, the United States celebrates Columbus Day. The day commemorates Christopher Columbus, an Italian voyager who discovered the Americas in 1492. But why are we celebrating someone who represents slavery and terrorism?

We have romanticized Columbus and his discovery instead of looking below the surface. He was not an intrepid adventurer who found the “New World” and colonized it to make it a better place. No, colonization is not something we should celebrate. On the contrary, Columbus was a cruel voyager who enslaved native people, exploited natural resources, promoted torture, imposed barbaric forms of punishment, and initiated the transatlantic slave trade. A lot of people call him a rapist, a land thief, and a murderer. Columbus wrote in his diary:

These things could be paid for in slaves taken from among these cannibals, who are so wild and well built and with a good understanding of things that we think they will be finer than any other slaves once they are freed from their inhumanity, which they will lose as soon as they leave their own lands.
— “Christopher Columbus: No Monuments for Murderers”

He is not a hero. We should not honor him.

We should not be celebrating Columbus Day, for it glorifies slavery, racism, torture, hate, exploitation, abuse, and colonial domination. Some parts in the U.S. have refused to honor “Columbus Day,” namely Alaska, Seattle, Albuquerque, San Francisco, Denver, and recently the biggest city of Maine. In Vermont and some of the aforementioned territories, people call this holiday “Indigenous People’s Day.” However, in the rest of the country, it’s still a disturbing issue. People don’t recognize that we can no longer laud and perpetuate colonial legacies. Honoring Columbus is dehumanizing and outrageous––it scorns the indigenous collective struggle and their lives.

A lot of countries in Latin America, such as Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Uruguay, and Venezuela celebrate “Día de la Raza” every October 12th to honor the Hispanic multi-cultural, multi-ethnic heritage of the Americas. This holiday creates awareness of the massacre caused by Columbus, and recognizes the indigenous heritage (people, customs, traditions, identities, and cultures) that was shattered because of Columbus’ colonization.

So the simple question is, why don’t we commemorate “Día de la Raza” and honor the indigenous culture and indigenous lives that were destroyed by Columbus, instead of celebrating the actual perpetrator of these crimes?