Today is Columbus Day. It’s an official federal holiday in the U.S. But many question the wisdom of celebrating Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the new land. Stories of his sea faring explorations are shrouded in myth and misinformation (contrary to popular belief, he never did set foot in what has become the U.S.A. Rather, he landed on the island of Hispanola—what is now known as Haiti and the Dominican Republic.) And he has the dubious distinction of founding the first ever trans-Atlantic slave trade.
To this day, slave trade continues. There are more slaves today than ever before in history—27 million. This fact goes against another popular myth: that slavery has been abolished from American shores.
So this Columbus Day, rather than lionizing the founder of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, why don’t we delve into the various myths that surround this elusive Italian explorer? (That’s another thing. Some say that Columbus may not have been Italian at all.) Enjoy this news roundup of Columbus Day critiques.
Washington Post: “Stuff You Should Know About Columbus” by Valerie Strauss:
A lot of what people think they know about Christopher Columbus is myth. Here are some things about the explorer who didn’t discover America that may surprise you:
…For various reasons, many places have changed the name of the holiday. Berkeley, California, replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992 to honor the original inhabitants of the islands where Columbus landed.
In 1989, South Dakota started calling the holiday Native American Day.
Alabama celebrates a combination of Columbus Day and American Indian Heritage Day.
Hawaii calls it Discovery Day.
Huffington Post: “Columbus Day? True Legacy: Cruelty and Slavery” by Eric Kasum:
“One of Columbus’ men, Bartolome De Las Casas, was so mortified by Columbus’ brutal atrocities against the native peoples, that he quit working for Columbus and became a Catholic priest… Christopher Columbus derived most of his income from slavery, De Las Casas noted. In fact, Columbus was the first slave trader in the Americas. As the native slaves died off, they were replaced with black slaves. Columbus’ son became the first African slave trader in 1505.”
NaplesNews.com: “Columbus Day–2010” The Social Critic by Eddie Filer:
“In 1495 during his second voyage, he transported some of the Indians to Spain as slaves and many of them died en route. He later wrote “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity to go on sending all the salves that can be sold.” A Catholic Priest wrote in his multi volume History of the Indies that the Spaniards were driven by insatiable greed, killing, terrorizing, afflicting and torturing the native Peoples.”
Santa Barbara Independent: “The Bold Marauder: Challenging the Columbus Myth” by Corine Fairbanks from the American Indian Movement of Santa Barbara:
“Internationally (except perhaps in Spain and Italy), Columbus is recognized as an instigator of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and he set in motion one of the largest intentional ethnic cleansing efforts known in history—also one of the least known. By some accounts, over 95 million indigenous peoples throughout the Western hemisphere were enslaved, mutilated, and massacred.”