Saturday, November 7, 2009

Why Celebrate Columbus Day?

Why celebrate Columbus Day?

Americans first celebrated "Columbus Day" in New York City in 1792 to honor the 300th anniversary of the "discovery" of America. It has been celebrated annually since 1920 on or around October 12th.

Who was Columbus? According to Wikipedia It is commonly, although not universally, believed that Christopher Columbus was born between 25 August and 31 October 1451 in Genoa, part of modern Italy.[4] His father was Domenico Colombo, a middle-class wool weaver, who later also had a cheese stand where Christopher was a helper, working both in Genoa and Savona. His mother was Susanna Fontanarossa. Bartolomeo, Giovanni Pellegrino and Giacomo were his brothers.

He was a navigator, colonizer and explorer whose voyages across the Atlantic Ocean led to general European awareness of the American continents in the Western Hemisphere. With his four voyages of exploration and several attempts at establishing a settlement on the island of Hispaniola, all funded by Isabella I of Castile, he initiated the process ofSpanish colonization which foreshadowed general European colonization of the "New World."

Although he "discovered" a new world for the Europeans - he never reached continental America. The first European to do that is believed to be Lief Erikson (Norse) who, according to the Sagas of Icelanders, established a Norse settlement at Vinland in 1002 or 1003, which has been tentatively identified with the L'Anse aux Meadows Norse site on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. By the way in 1964 the US government authorized October 9th to be celebrated as Lief Ericson Day - the date was not chosen because of any significant feat of Lief Ericson - but because that was the first day a ship from Norway came to the USA (after it was independent).

Back to Columbus. He never reached America. He discovered an island in the Bahamas (Caribbean). This island was inhabited by the Arawak. Since he had been searching for a shorter route to India ... he named these people "Indios".

Ok -- so as far as the Europeans were concerned he discovered a new world -- at a time when Europe was entering into its Colonization period. But what did he do with this discovery?

Columbus went back to the Bahamas 3 different times. According to the records - when he arrived he though the people were attractive and very generous. But Columbus was anxious to prove the worth of his discovery to his benefactors and supporters and was convinced there was gold there. Only there wasn't - so what did Columbus do? He tortured the "indios" to get them to tell him where the gold was -- by hanging, cutting off the hands of all males over 14 years old, taking the women as sex slaves for his men, feeding the babies to his dogs, etc. But no gold. So what did he do -- he brought back "slaves" to Europe.

At the time some historians believe the population of this area was around 3 million -- within 50 years of Columbus's "discovery", most of the Arawak had either been killed or died from disease. So should we celebrate this "achievement". This would be like asking the Turks to celebrate the birthday of Vlad the Impaler.

What do you think?

For more information regarding Columbus check out this video from Brass Checks TV:

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