Columbus Day Creation: The holiday Columbus Day is becoming one of the more controversial ones in the US.
The holiday has already been replaced by Indigenous Peoples’ Day in a number of cities across the country. Christopher Columbus is derided as a hero for colonizing the Caribbean for Spain, bringing slavery, disease, and death with him.
The supporters of Columbus argue that the holiday is part of Italian American heritage and any efforts to topple it are political correctness gone awry.
Indigenous activists and protestors have been emphasizing Columbus’ legacy of gruesome violence and suffragette history in recent years, which has boosted the holiday’s popularity.
If that’s the case, the mere fact that there is a debate suggests Columbus himself only came as far as the continent that would one day become the US, not to mention even North America itself. And his actions in the Caribbean and Central America were controversial even by early modern standards. He wasn’t simply a navigator whose arrival in America set off a wave of destruction. Columbus actively participated in some pretty gruesome crimes himself, in his pursuit of profit.
Columbus ruled Spain’s new territory on Hispaniola, serving as its governor. As part of their gold mining operations, the Spanish forced the native Ta*no people into slavery. As Smithsonian Magazine reported, the local population was decimated by harsh conditions, starvation, and disease.
Native Americans older than 14 in some areas were required to collect a certain quantity of gold powder to receive tokens, Smithsonian Magazine reported. It was their hands that would be chopped off if they didn’t meet the quota.
A black legend – a historical phenomenon in which non-Spanish historians claim to portray the Spanish as being the most brutal European colonizers – has long been recognized by historians.
Francisco de Bobadilla went to Hispaniola to investigate the rumored abuses and incompetence of Columbus. In a report, he accused Columbus and his brothers of being hapless tyrants after amassing testimony from Columbus’s enemies and allies. In the report, there are allegations of horrific torture and mutilation.
Although Columbus supporters today portray Bobadilla as a dishonest usurper, König Ferdinand/Queen Isabella did jail Columbus for six weeks after that report. As a result of Columbus’ freedom, he was not reappointed governor and was sent on another voyage.
So how did Americans come to celebrate the legacy of Christopher Columbus in the first place?
During the Revolutionary War, Columbus’s fame began to spread, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that it reached a broader audience.
Despite the Vikings settling in Canada, John Cabot of Venice was the first European explorer to reach the mainland in 1497. He had, however, claimed the land as his own. When the colonies and the Crown clashed, the fact was rather politically incorrect, Smithsonian Magazine reported.
Americans began naming everything they owned after their independence from England. He was the name of towns, rivers, landmarks, and even the new capital.
Library of Congress reports that Italian immigrants in the US were met with nativist hostility and violence when they arrived in the 19th century. Despite early modern Genoa’s view that it was a “fiercely independent city state” rather than an Italian city, Columbus became an important symbol for the city, the Washington Post reported.
In his Los Angeles Times article, Sam Wineburg writes, “What better symbol could there be to mobilize and Americanize these immigrants than one of their own?”.
The US President Benjamin Harrison promoted Columbus as a symbol of patriotism by declaring Columbus’ arrival in the Americas a holiday on his arrival anniversary. It was reported in 1909 that an attempt was made to canonize Columbus, but the Vatican denied it.
The federal holiday of Columbus Day was established in 1937 under American President Franklin Roosevelt.
Many American cities and states are rethinking celebrating Columbus’s legacy
Since Columbus’s colonization and enslavement of native peoples is viewed within America’s own historical context of slavery and systemic racial oppression, Indigenous Peoples’ Day has gotten more attention in recent years.
Baltimore encountered protests this summer that called for racial justice, reparations, and decried police violence, which led to the toppling of one statue of Columbus. Baltimore Sun reports that the protesters who removed the statue urged the removal of statues that honored white supremacists, slave owners, genocide perpetrators, and colonizers.
Remains of the Christopher Columbus statue near Little Italy after it was ripped from its pedestal and dragged into the Jones Falls by protesters in Baltimore on Saturday, July 4, 2020. Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
It was only in the 1980s that protests against Columbus Day began. In fact, it was the first Native Americans Day. South Dakota began to observe Native American Day instead of Columbus Day in 1989, following pressure from activists.
The first Indigenous Peoples’ Day was celebrated in 1992 by American Indians in Berkeley, California – 500 years after Columbus’ first voyage.
Since the holidays were made legal in many states and cities, more cities have adopted them. The CNN reported that more than 130 cities have decided to boycott Columbus Day altogether in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. USA Today reports that 14 states have made this day an official holiday.
After all, the innocuous – and fictional – image of a bold Renaissance seafarer was embraced by the public on a wave of support. Columbus is more widely known now for sailing the ocean blue in 1492—and for doing some horrific things as well.
Thousands of parades, speeches, and statues have commemorated Columbus since he first sailed the ocean blue in 1492. Since then, there has been a critical rethinking of Columbus’ life and legacy.
Nevertheless, many would like to know how someone who has never even been to North America got a federal holiday named after him? When Columbus cast his anchor in the Bahamas, he indeed reached the coast of the New World, but he never made it to the United States.
As opposed to Juan Ponce de Leon (who reached Florida in 1513), Alonso Alvarez de Pineda (whose ships reached Corpus Christi Bay in Texas in 1519) and fellow Italian Giovanni da Verrazzano, who arrived in New York Harbor in 1524.
What is the significance of Columbus Day? Before the mid-1700s, most Americans knew very little about Christopher Columbus. This changed after Britain gained independence from the United States in the late 1700s. Columbia contributed to the new nation’s association with the name “United States” as various landmarks (such as the District of Columbia, Columbia University and the Columbia River) were given the name.
Columbus’s life and voyages account, published by Washington Irving in 1828, forms the basis for most of the legends and glorifications surrounding Columbus today, and is considered highly fictionalized.
Irving depicts Columbus as generous and benevolent, a brave man who was known for his benevolence towards Indians. According to the best-seller, Columbus “was extremely desirous of dispelling any terror or distrust that might have occurred on the island as a result of the pursuit of the fugitives,” after a group of captive Indians escaped. Columbus’ actual conduct toward natives was, of course, the complete opposite. (A History of the Life was also responsible for the incorrect belief that most people believed the Earth was flat until after Columbus’ journey.)