One of our readers, Michelle Avila, a student at Fordham University in the Bronx, submitted the following reaction to the recent Columbus Day celebrations, as well as her thoughts on the man Christopher Columbus and his legacy:
“As we settle into our work week from a long Columbus Day Weekend, I question the legitimacy of the man that we celebrate. History books glorify the man who “discovered” the Americas, as the catalyst that would forever change the North and South American continent. Yet, the famous rhyme of 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, overshadows the real tale of the conquistador. The man who arrived in the Caribbean in 1492 and claimed all of North America for the Spaniards. The man who led mass atrocities to be committed against the Native Americans and who was later tried for “mismanaging” the colonies of which he was put in charge.
In a post colonial world that still struggles to help former colonies stabilize and develop, it is ironic that Christopher Columbus, the man who began the wave of colonization into the New World, can be idolized. In 1945, 750 million people were living in non self governing territories that depended on colonial powers. Since its creation, the United Nations has taken various measures to ensure that former colonies gain full independence, are fully recognized as sovereign bodies, and can develop sustainably. They have initiated global endeavors to promote social, economic, and political development, while simultaneously advocating for an end to colonialism. This past May the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization enacted a conference in the Bahamas as a part of the proclamation of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.
Currently, the Fourth Committee of the UN General Assembly has released a statement that although there are only 16 non-self governing territories left, that number is far too high. So the next time that we celebrate a three day weekend replete with parades in honor of an American “hero”, let us take the time to fully educate ourselves and evaluate the person history books idolize.”