Columbus Day: Holiday or Bad Reminder

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Columbus Day has different meanings for different cultures

Columbus Day is Monday, October 11th 2010, and what the heck is it? For most of us it means that the Post Office is closed and no mail, some banks and businesses are closed, and school is off for some students. Most of the benefits of the holiday are a long weekend, sales, parades and some parties and outings. Elsewhere, the day is celebrated as Dia de la Raza in many countries in the Americas, Dia de las Culturas in Costa Rica, Discovery Day in the Bahamas, Dia de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional in Spain, and as Dia de las Americas in Uruguay. Most of these holidays have been unofficially celebrated since the late 1700’s.

The original intent was to honor the discoverer and explorer Christopher Columbus, whom, by most records, discovered America on October 12th, 1492. We now know that he did not really discover America for the world, he was the first European to set foot on American soil, as the native Americans were already here long before he ever arrived at our doorstep. In 1934, on behalf of the Knights of Columbus due to their lobbying, Congress and then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made October 12th a federal holiday. In 1971, the government, as with most other holidays, made sure it was on a Monday, so the second Monday in October was re-designated a national holiday celebrating his arrival on our shores, which is, by the same day as Thanksgiving in Canada.

This day has different meanings for different people, as some of the negative aspects of the Europeans Colonization of the Americas had some negative undertones, with slavery, killings, and other atrocities against the native Americans. Still, we celebrate this day as part of our heritage, but some of us celebrate it for different reasons. With all the different cultures we have in our land, there are different variations on just about anything that we do. Some Italians celebrate this day as a day of pride in their heritage and culture. Across the land, it has even been given different names, like Berkley, CA, where they have renamed the holiday Indigenous Peoples Day, while in South Dakota, it is celebrated as Native America Day, and in Hawaii it is called Discoverer’s Day, which for them commemorates their discoverers, the Polynesians, and it is not a legal holiday. Nevada is not a legal holiday in Nevada, but rather a day of observance. San Francisco on the other hand lays claim to the nation’s longest ongoing celebration with the Italian-Americans annual Columbus Day Parade, established by Nicola Larco, a community leader and founder of La Societa Italiana di Mutua Beneficicenza, in 1868.

Some regard the holiday as offensive, as it is now referred to as Day of Indigenous Resistance on Venezuela since 2002, under the guidance of Hugo Chavez. Dia de la Raza is also seen in many countries as a counter to Columbus Day, and it is used to resist the arrival of Europeans to the Americas and is used to celebrate native races. There are others whom oppose this holiday, particularly indigenous groups, for the cruel treatment of the indigenous people at the hands of the Columbus party and the settlers whom followed him and his crews.

However you choose to celebrate, oppose, protest, ignore this holiday or commemoration is purely your choice, and you should be able to do what you choose is best for you and your ethics. For us, it is another day, a day in which to contemplate our current situations, and in retrospect, it isn’t much different from those of 1492 in some cases. We still have social climbers and self promoters who stop at nothing whatsoever, including exploitation of the peoples, lands, governments, even twisting the scriptures, for their own ambitions and agendas and personal gains. Human nature is what it is, and that will never change unfortunately. For those of us, we can celebrate in the fact that we can make some changes, and maybe someday eliminate those behaviors, but until then, we must be diligent in our actions to oppose those whom seem determined on destroying the planet and anything else in their path for their own personal gains or bottom lines. This is where the root of the problem lies, and until we can overcome these obstacles, our planet will remain in jeopardy. Instead why don’t you join us and those from around the world on behalf of 350.org on 10/10/10 for the “Getting to Work in Your Community” party or here and on Facebook here and let them know that this is our planet too and we are ready to make a difference today!

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