Columbus Day not what it used to be

In case you may have forgotten, the reason we didn’t get our mail this past Monday was that it was Columbus Day, a national holiday since 1937. It doesn’t seem to be as popular as it used to.
I remember being a young teenage-member of the New York Naval Cadets proudly marching in the Columbus Day Parade. We were taught back then that Columbus was a hero.
Hearing the crowd’s applause, I felt proud honoring the man who “discovered America, proved the Earth was round, not flat, and brought advanced European civilization to the primitive people of the new world.”
That is what our history book said, what I was taught in school in the 1940s, what I believed to be true, and what I still read in textbooks issued by the Dallas I.S.D when I began teaching in 1961.
By the 1970s, however, scholarly research was revealing Christopher Columbus as a mariner whose primary ambition was personal wealth and power, and the willingness to use unspeakable cruelties against the native peoples in order to achieve those goals.
While Columbus’ voyages did contribute toward a more accurate view of the then known world (larger than most thought), he was not the first to discover it. Leif Erickson beat him by 500 years, but Columbus did a better job of informing Europe of his findings.
Columbus did not prove the world was round. Enough voyages by various explorers and mariners occurring many years before 1492 had already shown that to be true. Only a few ignorant people may have believed the earth was flat when Columbus sailed.
Finally, the only advanced items of European civilization he brought were armor and weaponry with which he used to conquer, intimidate, punish, torture, decimate and enslave the native peoples.
Some recent articles present the possibility that Columbus may have been a Marrano (a Jew pretending to be Catholic), but his inhumane treatment of native peoples would indicate otherwise.
If my Italian-American friends need a national Italian hero, there are so many to choose from (Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caesar, writers, artists, etc.) In fact, I just read in The New York Times that over 100 Italian-American authors marched as a group in Monday’s Columbus Day parade, celebrating their heritage.
The discussion about replacing Columbus Day began in 1977 during an International Conference of Indigenous People. More evidence from scholarly research revealed the true nature of Christopher Columbus and his horrific mistreatment of Native Peoples.
While it is unlikely that Columbus Day will ever be entirely eliminated, its popularity is on the decline. On the other hand, local Indigenous People’s Day observances now number almost 50 across the country and are on the increase.

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