By Renata Terrazzan
Since 1937, the second Monday of October has been set aside for Columbus Day. It is a national holiday, banners are sold, elementary school kids have a special activity for it, the post office takes a day off, and all that good holiday stuff. But should Columbus actually be the cause for all this celebration?
The response to whether or not it should be celebrated is fairly divided. Some question whether his whole fame is a lie, since he did not truly discover the Americas. Afterall, Native Americans had been on that land for years and he was not even the first European to cross the Atlantic. Leif Eriksson was the first, and he landed in Newfoundland. Even if Columbus had been the first to cross the Atlantic and see all the land that was available, that was not all he did there. He enslaved the Native Americans, made them work endless hours without getting anything in return, he took all their land, and for anyone who broke his rules punishment was severe, like cutting off hands, whipping, torture, and killing. And, this cruelty was not exclusive to the natives, but extended to his own crew. He would execute the rebel Spanish colonists. His tyranny was so great that he was reported to the Spanish crown, arrested, and brought back to Spain in 1500. Therefore, this shows that Columbus was not idolized or celebrated in his time period. Yet, today he is one of two men who have an entire holiday to themselves, and the other is Martin Luther King Jr., a man who tore down the barriers between blacks and whites.
But on the other side, he did accomplish many things. Since he had the Spanish royalty behind his expedition, news that there was more land spread quickly over Europe. This led to hundreds of Europeans to sail across the sea and inhabit the land, which led to towns, then cities, more urbanization and technology, and eventually the Americas we know today. The other side also sees Columbus’ enslavement of the natives as something that he couldn’t help, given the time period. He was in fact like many other leaders we worship here in America, like George Washington, who was a slave owner for fifty-six years and enslaved 317 people. But, even Washington does not have a whole day dedicated to his celebration, unless President’s Day can count, even if that holiday is shared with 42 other men.
So, maybe the nation should be celebrating Columbus’ discovery and not the man himself. Maybe a change of name would be appropriate, like “Day of the New Age?” Yet, is the start of the new age something that should be celebrated, since because as soon as the New Age began the lives of thousands of Native American’s were ended. This holiday goes along the same lines as a holiday called “the Day of the Beginning of the World Economy,” since the day the World Economy started was the same day that the slave trade in Africa began. That holiday doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon.