by Cindy Pena
I grew up thinking Columbus Day was just a day off school to celebrate Christopher Columbus and how he “discovered” America. However, as I soon realized, Christopher Columbus is not just an explorer that sparked European colonialism. Instead, his actions resulted in mass genocide.
Christopher Columbus is best known for his four voyages through the Atlantic Ocean and his attempts to establish settlements on Hispaniola that began the European colonization of the New World. He is celebrated today because these voyages and exploration led to the development of the western world that we live in today.
So why across the United States are people protesting to end Columbus Day? Well, because it is not such a good idea to celebrate a man who committed atrocities to the native people on the land he “discovered.” We honor this explorer as the man who “discovered” America. In reality, North America was occupied and discovered by the Native Americans. So is it fair to give the credit to Christopher Columbus?
But what did he do when he “discovered” the islands of the people of Lucayans, Tainos and Arakwas that he wrote so fondly about in his diary? He seized their land and enslaved them to work in gold mines.
The working conditions and demand to deliver was excruciating that many died from exhaustion. If you did not deliver, your arms would be cut off and tied around your neck. This was just a warning to the other workers.
These Native Americans who once lived in harmony and worked together as a unit were now being forced to be slaves. He built his legacy and profit through enslaving and selling native people. Although he may not have done it intentionally, genocide resulted under his rein of terror.
In just two years, half the population of the original natives of the island were dead.
Yet today, Columbus Day is still marked on school calendars as a day off to honor Christopher Columbus. In history classes, students will still read in their textbooks the same heroic nonsense we have been fed all our lives.
His legacy is slowly being tainted as more and more people discover who Christopher Columbus really was; he certainly was no honorable explorer.
Although we cannot erase history, we can recognize that what he did was evil. Ending Columbus Day is just one step we can take to recognize Columbus Day as a celebration of genocide.