Should Christopher Columbus Day be Celebrated?

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Christopher Columbus Day commemorates Christopher Columbus’ landing in the New World on October 12, 1492. The first recorded celebration of the day was on October 12, 1792 on the 300th anniversary of the landing. Columbus Day has been celebrated for decades, however it has been recently brought up many times as a controversial topic. The question “ Should Columbus day be celebrated?” is a debatable question, a lot of people have several opinions and perspectives on this topic.  

The beginning 

Christopher Columbus was an Italian-born explorer who set sail in August 1492, bound for Asia with backing from the Spanish monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella aboard the ships the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. 

On October 12, 1492, he landed in the Bahamas, becoming the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings established colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland during the 10th century. The first Columbus Day celebration took place in 1792 and in 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day a national holiday. 

Now coming back to the present, 

Native Americans and other groups have protested the celebration of an event that resulted in the colonization of the Americas, the beginnings of the transatlantic slave trade and the deaths of millions from murder and disease.

This is understandable since European settlers brought a host of infectious diseases, including smallpox and influenza that decimated indigenous populations. Warfare between Native Americans and European colonists claimed many lives as well.

Interpreting Columbus as a hero has been brought into question several times. When Columbus arrived in the Bahamas, he and his men placed the lives of many indigenous people in danger. We should also mention the fact that he forced the native people they found there into enslavement. 

Changes around the world 

In many Latin American countries, Columbus day is referred to as “Dia de la Raza” meaning “Day of the Race”. This is a celebration to commemorate Hispanic culture’s diverse roots. Another change that can not be left out is that in 2002, Venezuela renamed the holiday Dìa de la Resistencia Indìgena (“Day of Indigenous Resistance”) to recognize native peoples and their experience.

The United States has also taken part in this, several cities and states have replaced Columbus day.  States including Alaska, Hawaii and Oregon commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, as well as cities like Denver, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Some perspectives on this topic

I wanted to find the opinion of others. Therefore, I decided to ask three of my classmates their thoughts on this topic. They all believed the day should be changed, they believe that it is harmful to celebrate this.

I decided to go deeper into this topic with one of my family members. I decided to interview them and ask them what they thought about this topic and whether it should or should not be celebrated.

This is what they had to say: 

In my opinion there is controversy in the celebration of this day. In the first place, this day is celebrated because new lands, new cultures, new religions and people totally different from Europeans were discovered. However, as a consequence of this discovery the indigenous people were tortured, massacred, and put into slavery by the Europeans.This is why some countries name that day and celebrate it as the day of the indigenous resistance. In conclusion, I think that this day should be celebrated only in Europe because they were the ones who discovered these new lands for their own benefits. Also, this discovery was the beginning of the abuse and mistreatment suffered by the indigenous race.” 

In terms of my own personal opinion, I feel conflicted. Similar as my family member, I think that although this events marks the discovery of the americas, it also marks the start of decades of discrimination towards native people. Therefore, I see this celebration as a difficult topic. 

Putting it together.

Overall, this event is considered a victory for one group and a loss for another. This topic is viewed in many different ways and perspectives, it can be difficult to determine if there was more loss than benefits. 

What do you think? Do you believe this day should or should not be celebrated?.