Twelve Reasons NOT to Celebrate Columbus Day

Twelve Reasons NOT to Celebrate Columbus Day

Image for postDepiction of Spanish trained dogs tearing apart Native Americans

As an anti-paean to a holiday most Americans hardly acknowledge (unless they get a day off), here are a list of reasons that we should remove Columbus Day from our list of federal holidays. And yes, I know Columbus was at least in part a product of his brutish times and any nation who landed on Hispaniola in 1492 might have done similar things. Nevertheless, the same could be said of Julius Caesar, but I don?t know of many European countries who celebrate Julius Caesar Day. Or Napoleon Bonaparte Day, for that matter.

So here you go:

  1. Christopher Columbus wasn?t American! How many countries award holidays to non-natives? Yes, we have a federal holiday on Christmas, but I?ll put that in a special category (which we?ll call ?religious.?)
  2. Columbus never even came to this country! He never set foot on any part of the 50 United States.
  3. Columbus didn?t know shit about geography! Even though Eratosthenes (Greek mathematician living in Alexandria, Egypt, in the 3rd century BC, about 1750 years before Columbus? time) had calculated the earth?s circumference to within 1?2%, Columbus disregarded Eratosthenes? findings (which were replicated by others through the ages) and went with an earth size about 1/3 smaller. He brought his ?quick path to Asia theory? to both Portugal?s and Spain?s rulers. He got rejected in both countries because geographers there said Columbus?s calculations were way off base. (Also, Portugal?s Bartolomeu Dias had just rounded the southern end of Africa and the Portuguese thought they were on the verge of reaching those Asian spices, silks, and gold on their own.) But, according to Wikipedia, ?to keep Columbus from taking his ideas elsewhere, and perhaps to keep their options open,? Spain?s rulers funded his voyage.
  4. Columbus never discovered anything. There were already people living wherever he landed. It?s like me walking into your house (with my gang and all of us armed to the teeth) and saying, ?Wow, look what I found here, boys. And now I?ll claim it for us! If you don?t like it, we?ll kill you.?) Besides that, there is ample evidence of Leif Erickson and his fellow Vikings landing in Newfoundland/Labrador around five centuries earlier. And Erickson was certainly as European as Columbus (at least in today?s geographical terminology.) So the ?discovery? of the Western Hemisphere should go to Erickson, no? (And yes, I also know many other ?discoverers? have been posited through the ages.)
  5. Christopher Columbus initiated the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Now there?s a deed worth celebrating every year! (Sarcasm intended.) His first impression of the Arawaks, one of the first peoples he encountered, was ? They ? brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things? They willingly traded everything they owned? They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance.? How did Columbus react to such kindness and innocence? ?They would make fine servants?.? he wrote. ?With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.? And he made good on his promise.
  6. And #5 gets worse. Columbus?s Native American slave trade morphed into the African slave trade by the mid-16th century. As Columbus might have quipped, ?One good turn deserves another.? Okay, he never said that, but his writings prove that he would not have been opposed to it in the least.
  7. Columbus tortured and murdered many thousands of native peoples. He would have people?s ears and noses cut off as punishments. He would cut off the hands of people living in what now is Haiti for not bringing him enough gold every three months. (See, Columbus promised Ferdinand and Isabella so much, including gold, they had given him 17 ships and well over a thousand men for his second voyage! But Columbus couldn?t deliver on the gold claim. Hence, the inducement cited above.) Spaniards would test their swords by seeing who could cut an ?Indian? in half the fastest. The following passage is from James Loewen?s Lies My Teacher Told Me: In the early years of Columbus? conquests there were butcher shops throughout the Caribbean where Indian bodies were sold as dog food. There was also a practice known as the montera infernal, the infernal chase, or manhunt, in which Indians were hunted by war-dogs. These dogs ? who also wore armor and had been fed human flesh ? were a fierce match for the Indians. Live babies were also fed to these war dogs as sport, sometimes in front of their horrified parents.
  8. Columbus?s men used native girls as young as nine or ten as their sex slaves.
  9. In fact, the result of Columbus?s voyages was mass genocide according to many historians, and even those who don?t agree with the word genocide concur that tens of millions of Western Hemisphere inhabitants died as a result of European invasion (the majority from European diseases to which they had no immune resistance). You say tomato and I say to-mah-to. Just look at the big picture: whole tribes and civilizations were wiped out by the arrival of European mauraders.
  10. Columbus didn?t do too well as a governor of these new lands. According to, ?[The situation] at the Hispaniola settlement had deteriorated to the point of near-mutiny with settlers claiming they had been misled by Columbus? claims of riches and complaining about the poor management of his brothers. The Spanish Crown sent a royal official who arrested Columbus and stripped him of his authority. He returned to Spain in chains to face the royal court. The charges were later dropped but Columbus lost his titles as governor of the Indies and for a time, much of the riches made during his voyages.?
  11. Columbus believed that he was playing a part in a divine plan to Christianize the world. As part of this plan, Spaniards aimed to convert native peoples to Christianity. ?Bring them to the light,? if you would. But many would be killed if they did not accept Christ, even if they didn?t understand what the Spanish were explaining to them. (Remember, they weren?t well versed in Spanish.)
  12. And finally:Columbus Day was a solution to a problem that most people didn?t know existed. Most Americans didn?t even know much about Columbus until Washington Irving ? yes, that Washington Irving ? wrote A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1828. This was the book that popularized the ?Columbus sailed to prove the earth wasn?t flat? story. It also came across as an account that could have been written by Columbus?s publicity agent. Even then, the idea of a national holiday to honor Columbus was on practically no one?s horizon until a century later it was pushed by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization that was looking for a Catholic role model for Americans to celebrate. They got their wish when Franklin Roosevelt created Columbus day in 1937.

If we need a national holiday for the second Monday in October, let?s at least honor an AMERICAN who hasn?t been shown to be the prime mover in the torture/death/destruction of so many people. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? About the author: Daniel Berenson contributes to Medium now and then ? in this case now ? with original and unique views on such things as squirrels, politics, fairy tales, history, and Spanish telenovelas. Please follow him or give him some claps ? please be sure that?s in the plural ? if you enjoyed this. Or better yet, follow him. And thanks for reading this. (BTW, you can find a list of over 40 of his articles here.)

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