Columbus Day: A holiday of exploration and exploitation

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In 1492, an Italian explorer by the name of Christopher Columbus sailed “the ocean blue” in hope of finding an efficient sea route to Asia for gold and spices.  Though his diverged route did not lead him to his desired land, Columbus’s exploration yielded an even more profitable outcome: the “discovery” of The New World and its abundant resources.   

Flash-forward 525 years later, and ethnic and religious groups in The Americas currently celebrate a holiday in his name, Columbus Day.  Parallel to Columbus’s nationality and religion, Italians and Catholics in the Americas celebrate his achievements by organizing religious ceremonies and parades.  

Although Columbus Day is a nationally recognized holiday, there are some who feel animosity towards its status as a celebratory day.

Native Americans currently protest the celebration of Columbus as the Europeans’ arrival consequently spread infectious disease and eventually enforced natives into slavery.  

According to The Washington Post, the norse-navigator, Leif Erikson, founded Canada 500 years prior to Columbus’s birth, dispelling beliefs that Columbus found America.  Furthermore, the article states that although Columbus explored Central and South America along with the islands currently named Bahamas and Hispaniola, his expeditions did not lead him to the finding of North America.    

As a result of the statements expressed above, cities across the country moved to replace Columbus Day with another holiday honoring native people, Indigenous Day.  Los Angeles declared on August 30th of this year that indigenous Day will be celebrated in place of Columbus Day, according to The Los Angeles Times.   

Though the most recent conversion, Los Angeles was not the first to make this change.  Initially, Berkeley replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day in 1992, according to TIME. Multiple states including Denver and Seattle have abolished their state’s recognition of Columbus Day subsequently.  

Though Columbus Day elicits controversy, his contributions are still integral to American society today.  Few can deny that his exploration to the Americas provided foundation for further European colonization.  As one body, he paved the way for exploration and intercontinental-trade between Africa, the Old World, and the New World.

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