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Christopher Columbus was a fraud. Can we stop celebrating his legacy now?

The guy gets a federal holiday, but what did he actually accomplish?

Christopher Columbus was a fraud. Can we stop celebrating his legacy now?

Christopher Columbus statue

Photo by Blaz Erzetic on Unsplash

When I was a little, I would get extremely excited for the second Monday in October, primarily because it offered an additional day off from school. Yes, I'm consciously aware of how ignorant that sounds. But like most children, I was unaware of the dark history surrounding Columbus Day, primarily because Christopher Columbus was considered as a great dude.

Throughout my elementary school youth, we were taught Christopher Columbus was an upstanding citizen, who not only discovered America, but provided Native Americans with prosperous opportunities. But with most American history, the truth isn't as clear and picturesque as it often seems and the story surrounding Columbus is no different.

He didn't actually discover America

Let's get one thing straight so there's no confusion moving forward; Christopher Columbus didn't discover America. In fact, Columbus never set foot in North America. A Norse explorer by the name of Leif Eriksson was believed to have been the guy who first set foot in North America...500 years before Columbus was even born.

Columbus explored the Central and South American coasts, but never actually reached North America.

He was a brutal slave owner

For those who thought Columbus was a genteel man, who provided Native Americans with an abundance of opportunities, think again. When Columbus landed on an unknown Caribbean island in 1492, the international slave trade was beginning to grow. During that time, Columbus and his men enslaved numerous natives within the West Indies, subjecting them to immense cruelty and violence.

Columbus forced natives to work for profits, eventually sending thousands of peaceful Taino "Indians" from the island of Hispaniola to Spain to be sold. Hispaniola, or Spanish La Española if you want to get really technical, is the second largest island of the West Indies. It lies within the Greater Antilles, in the Caribbean Sea and is divided politically into the Republic of Haiti (west) and the Dominican Republic (east).

Being that Columbus was governor and viceroy of the Indies, he inflicted strict authority over what is now the Dominican Republic. When the natives rebelled, Columbus enacted cruel orders in which many natives were killed. To prevent further retaliation, and send a message to natives, Columbus ordered their dismembered bodies to be paraded through the streets.

So... why do we continue celebrating him again?

To honor Italian-American heritage, the first Columbus Day was celebrated on October 12th, 1792, in New York. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed October 12th a national holiday to commemorate Columbus's legacy. It wasn't until 1972 when the holiday was changed to the second Monday of every October. So I guess we can thank our 32nd President for the federal holiday.

It wouldn't be the first time a U.S. President has made a mistake.

So there you have it, a brief explainer on why Columbus Day should be abolished. In fact, let's just celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, or Native American Day instead. It's ten times better than having a federal holiday commemorating the legacy of a brutal, Italian slave owner who didn't actually discover America

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