Should we celebrate Columbus Day?


Ask most school children about Christopher Columbus. They’ll tell you Columbus “discovered” America.

But how could he discover it if there were already indigenous cultures thriving in this hemisphere?

You could say that Columbus’ “discovery” eventually led to the decimation of indigenous cultures, and that is not something we should celebrate.

Many Latin American countries mark Oct. 12 as Día de la Raza, a day to celebrate the meeting of the Europeans and the native people.

In the United States, it has taken on a more political meaning as a way to celebrate Latino heritage and not the arrival of Columbus.

Some schools no longer give a day off for Columbus Day.

Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and Seattle schools were open. But Chicago public schools were closed.

A recent survey of what is taught about Columbus by the Department of Education found some schools still use outdated materials and some contained demeaning depictions of the native populations, according to an Associated Press story.

On the other side,  in one Pennsylvania school they put Columbus on trial and sentenced him to life in prison, according to same story.
This is a cause for concern and we shouldn’t be teaching our students just one narrow view of history.

I think when we teach the legacy of Columbus we should have a balanced view of what that means.

It shouldn’t be just about parades.  If some people
want to remember Columbus as a hero, that it is their right to do so.
It’s a free country.

But let’s also remember the legacy of colonialism and the death and destruction of the native people in all of the Americas.


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  • I'm really glad you wrote about this. I think Columbus day has become one of those holidays we don't even think about anymore, like Flag Day or whatever. The bank is closed, the post office is closed - inconvenient. But there's a reason that Columbus was given a holiday, and while it may not be a reason we like, we should "celebrate" somehow - even if the "celebration" of it is just having a real discussion about how our culture's history, both the good and the bad. I can understand how we can admire someone (not just Columbus but many others as well) who put themselves in a ship and just sailed, not knowing what they're going to find. I also admire the pioneers of the 1800s, going out to make a new life for themselves without knowing what was there. But neither of these places were empty - there were already many people living there. I think we should celebrate by doing what you're doing here - reminding ourselves that history is a coin with two sides - progress and destruction. Anyway, Teresa, thanks for reminding us of this forgotten holiday and why it's important to talk about!

  • I believe that Columbus Day should be abolished! If the holiday and parades are showcases that represent the best of Italy and the best of the Italian-American community, than a murderous Italian should not be the celebrated honoree. There is documented evidence that Columbus worked Natives to death, butchered those who failed to meet their quota of gold and murdered and enslaved many others. He initiated the worst holocaust in world history. Italians have better candidates to represent their rich and proud heritage. This controversial holiday should be renamed Italian-American Heritage Day. Considering that textbooks are still full of historical myths and misinformation, it is up to conscientious people to search the truth and become fully aware of the intrinsic rights of Indigenous peoples here. Personally, I believe Mexicans are migrants and not immigrants or "illegal aliens." Their ancestors have been migrating back and forth for thousands of years and this is also their sacred Motherland.

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