October 11, 2010

Columbus: hero or villain?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 10:04 pm by potofcallaloo

In my native twin island country, the Karina community is dwindling in numbers.

They are descendents of the indigenous peoples who first inhabited Trinidad and Tobago.

They struggle to maintain whatever little history or culture they have left, afterall it’s so few of them around.

In the 15th Century their island was raped and pillaged; their people taken as slaves, beaten, held captive and murdered by a man praised the world over and hailed as a “discoverer” during the  European colonisation of our part of the world.

On October 12th, many countries around the world, including the United States of America and Spain will observe Columbus Day – A day in honor of the famous or infamous (depending on how you look at it) Christopher Columbus.

A Celebration of what?

Columbus Day. Just imagine that.

Many who attended primary school in my time or eras before were taught that Columbus “discovered” Trinidad or La Trinity as he called it.

Now I’m older and some of the brainwashing tactics have lost effect, I cringe at any mention of this explorer who “discovered” my island and so many others with people already living there.

People who had families like you and me. People with a culture and religion they celebrated. People with a sense of humanity and respect for nature.

But to Columbus, these were people who he felt needed to learn the western way. He had no respect for their families, culture, or beliefs. To him, they were pagans who lacked civility and needed to be converted to his Queen’s religion.To him they were people who needed to be colonised by Europe.

And this is what is being celebrated? What of all the entire generations of indigenous peoples lost? Gone, never to return?? This is how we show remorse for celebrating a tyrant.

Salute the indigenous

Kudos to nations like Venezuela who stopped the madness and instead commemorate the Day of Indigenous Resistance.

It’s time for all other nations who celebrate such madness to come to their senses and show some respect for the people who really deserve it.

These heinous crimes were committed centuries ago, yet today the indigenous peoples of the so called New World remain insulted.

Before turning a blind eye again or remaining mum, don’t let another ‘Columbus Day’ pass without knowing the real history behind this Columbus. The real hero in this story isn’t Columbus, it’s the people he stole from.

It’s time to set history right.



  1. jasenogle said,

    To say that Columbus Day is celebrated in the United States is a gross overstatement. No one really goes out and flies kites, or sing songs, or set off fireworks for Columbus. If you’re lucky, you have the day off and you can take advantage of the sales in stores. If not, then it’s just any other day.

  2. Thanks for the comment Jasen. I shall correct it with “observe”, hopefully I’ll be more politically correct. But the underlying point really, is the fact that such a holiday exists in honor of this man.

  3. Nix said,

    Agreed Alisha. Whether or not it is “Celebrated” with kite flying or song and dance doesnt take away from the fact that its a holiday. To be a holiday it means the government endorsed it in whatever way (I’m not sure what the system is in the US).

    I liked your point though about what we are taught in elementary school about Columbus “discovering” Trinidad. Even though I had read about slavery and colonisation by Europeans throughout secondary school, its sad to say it was not until University that I finally was able to put two and two together and understand that the same kindof violence must have occured here too.

    Columbus and his 3 ships would have brought diseases from Europe that the indegenous people would not have been used to, they would have been forced to adopt religion and culture that was foreign to them.

    Its really quite striking when you think of all the cultures around the world that have been lost or diluted because of European Colonisation….

  4. Thanks Nix. Well stated! You are right, leaving it a holiday is like endorsing it. Things like that are bold statements and speak volumes. How is this any different from any of the other inhumane, heinous crimes that society has spoken out against? Yet in history the villains become the heroes and the true victims are forgotten.

  5. jasenogle said,

    It’s a Federal Holiday in the same sense that Labor Day is a Federal Holiday. All it means is that people get the day off at work. Also, it is on a state by state basis. So for example, it might be recognised as a holiday in New York, but not in Texas. Your blog makes it seem as though it’s celebrated like Veterans Day or Memorial Day or even Christmas, but that is not the case. Children are taught in school that Columbus arrived in the Americas expecting it to be Eastern India.

    While young they aren’t taught about the gruesome atrocities that came along with it, because of the nature of the subject, but as they get older and become familiar with the realities of life, they are taught about it along with the Trail of Tears, Slavery, Jim Crow laws, Suffrage, etc…

    Again, your blog says that it is celebrated, but I can tell you of no place in America where it is celebrated as you suggest.

    And on the point of leaving it as a holiday endorses it, that is not necessarily true. Would people care to talk about the pillaging and raping, and disease if the holiday didn’t exist? If there was not Columbus day, wouldn’t people just forget about it?

    • Jasen on the point of ‘celebrating’ Columbus day, it’s used as a hyperbole. I know it’s merely a ‘day off’ as you put it in some states, where no one literally ‘celebrates’ it but the figure of speech is used to make a point. A valid point that not everyone would agree with but it’s a point nonetheless, one that many people find valid and one that’s affected many lives.

      In so many other places where there isnt a ‘columbus day’ people do not forget the atrocities that are associated with this man.

      And I totally see the last point you’re making about people forgetting if the holiday weren’t there, but why was the holiday created to begin with? In places like Trinidad there is discourse about it despite there being no holiday because we see how the Indigenous peoples have been affected. We see how it’s affected our history.

      If we can denounce other tyrants or people labeled tyrants by the West, why do we make excuses for leaving a holiday initially created to honor Columbus? I think if such a thing didnt make a bold statement nations like Venezuela wouldn’t have removed ‘columbus day’ and there wouldn’t be campaigns in the U-S to have it removed. I think it’s more the principle of it than anything else.

  6. Tyrone said,

    I really think that concerns expressed about this blog is minor and fails to detract from the issue raised in the blog. The fact that the people look forward to the “day off” called Columbus Day means they are celebrating it, to observe or to celebrate connotes and denotes the same meaning in the context of holidays. The fact that this architect of genocide is celebrated is another indication of the eurocentric bias that dominates global culture and politics.

  7. jasenogle said,

    “The fact that the people look forward to the “day off” called Columbus Day means they are celebrating it, to observe or to celebrate connotes and denotes the same meaning in the context of holidays.” – That is a load of crap! So under this reasoning, what you are saying is that when American Muslims look forward to not working during the Christmas/ Chaunukah Holidays that means they are celebrating Christmas and Chanukah??

    Columbus Day was made a Federal Holiday in the early 1900s and to my knowledge was celebrated as a holiday as early as the mid 1800s. We live in modern times where people understand the significance of imperialism and it’s atrocities. Undoing Columbus Day isn’t going to change anything apart from sending people back to work. It’s not going to give Native Americans or other Indigenous peoples back their lands and religions. It’s too late for that now. Dialogue and remembrance is all that is left to do.

    Ultimately, judging from the blog and the discussions that we (and probably many others) are having about it; it shows that Columbus Day isn’t even what it used to be. It’s no longer about a celebration of the “discovery” of the West. It’s a reminder of a world without human rights and dignity.

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