Friday, October 27, 2006

Adios a Colon

On October 9th, 2006, the streets of New York were crowded with the city’s children. Even though it was a Monday, many youngsters were found playing hopscotch and basketball, and attending the Columbus Day festivities. Columbus Day is a school-free, work-free (for some adults) day of parades and festivals, in which we celebrate the invasion of the Americas. Christopher Columbus has become a U.S. cultural icon, whose arrival to the U.S. signifies for many as the great discovery of the Americas, and many students in the United States are taught this cruel hoax.

While their Latin American parents and grandparents know of the true robbery and violence that occurred in their native lands, many Latino students are instead taught that Christopher Columbus is a U.S. cultural icon. The commendatory Columbus myths and celebrations in the U.S. mask the enslavement, exploitation, and genocide of the Native Americans brought about by Columbus and his successors, who the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez described as “worse than Hitler.”[i] The Spanish historian Consuelo Varela has described Columbus’ Caribbean government as “a frontier society, with terrible misery and injustice.”[ii] Columbus implemented extreme forms of punishments to the indigenous peoples, such as the dismembering their ears and noses. I myself was not conscious of Columbus’ ancient crimes until a few years ago, when I conversed with a Dominican schoolteacher. She explained to me that in Latin America children learn as early as grade school of Columbus’ rape of the Americas. My U.S. education has failed me and many other Latino students; the heroic grandfather, who proved that the Earth was round and whom schoolchildren celebrate with portraits of crayon and cotton-ball-wigs, songs, plays, and parades, is a poseur.

The misuse of education is partly predicated on the Euro-centric assumption that brown savages, who did not accomplish nor contribute anything and who desperately needed the virtues of the European intellect and religion, inhabited the Americas. One such scholar who elaborates on such a racist assumption is Dr. Michael S. Berliner, who argues: "Whatever the problems it brought, the vilified Western culture also brought enormous, undreamed-of benefits, without which most of today's Indians would be infinitely poorer or not even alive."[i]

However, research has shown that Native Americans have made countless contributions. For example, in the realm of the humanities, they have produced oral literary traditions, art, music, and literature. Furthermore, the American indigenous populations have cultivated the majority of foods eaten today, such as rootbeer, beef jerky, chocolate, and potatoes.

A Euro-centric notion does not do justice to multicultural landscape of the Americas. African Americans, Europeans, indigenous tribes, and other populations comprise its lands. Therefore, it is crucial that more people understand the guileless social evolution in the Americas. Come, and lend a helping hand in a candid depiction of the Americas preceding Columbus’ arrival and of European exploration and colonization. Extend beyond these simple words a greater respect for those who marginalized. E-mail your family and friends a line or two saying your goodbye to Christopher.

[1] Columbus 'sparked a genocide'. BBC News (October 12, 2003). Retrieved on 2006-10-21.
[11] Abend, Lisa, Geoff Pingree. "Who really sailed the ocean blue in 1492?", The Christian Science Monitor, 2006-10-17. Retrieved on 2006-10-20.
[1] Berliner, Michael S. “On Columbus Day, Celebrate Western Civilization, Not Multiculturalism” The Ayn Rand Institute (October 9, 2002 ) Retrieved on 2006-10-20.

This post has been expanded into an internet-published article titled "Can You Say Goodbye to Colon." Check it out here

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