Columbus was never my hero

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For as many years as I can remember, I have resisted any celebration of Columbus Day.

Christopher Columbus, an Italian, sailed with the financial support of the Spanish monarchy, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The mission, with three ships, was to find the best trade route to the riches of the Far East, including India.

Columbus went in exactly the opposite direction, west instead of east, and was given credit by my grade school teachers in rural Pennsylvania and everywhere else for “discovering” America. I could not understand how anyone could be given credit for discovering a land already occupied.

All across America, there were tribes of people with functioning societies. A white man and his crew accepted the help of the residents, then treated them as inferior (non-Christian) human beings. The explorers shipped “savages” back to Spain to examine them like some prize horses.

Over the centuries, the white settlers made and broke treaties with each and every tribe of non-white residents the settlers labeled Indians. Had Columbus sailed in the right direction, the only people called Indians today would be residents of India.

At the same time that Columbus was said to have discovered America — 1492 — his Spanish sponsors were conducting the infamous Spanish Inquisition, forcing non-Christian citizens, Jews and Moors, to convert with sincerity, leave the country or be burnt at the stake.

Both sides of my family were forced out of Spain. The Ottoman Empire, Muslims, welcomed the Jews where they lived for many centuries. In Turkey and Bulgaria, my families spoke the local language, as well as Ladino, Judeo-Spanish and brought Ladino to America in the 1920s. Other Sephardim, Spanish Jews, settled in Middle Eastern countries where they lost their Spanish and spoke Arabic, Persian, or other languages of their adopted countries.

I never thought any large numbers of Americans might object to honoring Christopher Columbus to the point of taking down his statue at what has been Columbus Circle in the center of Manhattan. Does it make much difference after such a long time?

I think it’s more meaningful to take down monuments to the slave trade: monuments honoring the generals and politicians who tried to preserve slavery and destroy the unity of the United States, and take down the shameful flying of the pro-slavery Confederate flag.

David Bakish


Posted 12:00 am, October 20, 2017
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Reader feedback

Didnt come here from Queens says:
Ok.... This person doesn't know history. Columbus NEVER even came to America! Columbus landed in the canary islands, cuba, central America, (possibly) Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Hispaniola. You can't just go on blaming a person for taking in slaves because back then it was very common for people to do. Even in Africa, people had slaves although the type of slavery amongst them was different from European slavery because they were mostly enslaved to pay off a debt or pay for a crime and their children could become free and became one of their "owners" family members. The village heads themselves also sold their own people as slaves. Slavery was also common in central America as well.
Also, most people don't realize this but the irish were also enslaved many years ago by the british and the British slaughtered half of irelands population.

Taking down a statue is not going to change history. We cannot allow a statue to determine our futures, we can only use it to remember history and the how far we have come in this country. We can keep these statues as reminders of what we don't want to be in the future. We have no power to change history, but we have the power right now to shape our futures.
Oct. 20, 2017, 4:14 am
Don from Queens says:

DAVE NEESE: Cleaning up our historical act

"We must seize this opportunity to indulge ourselves in smug moral righteousness, in “virtue-signaling,” as it has come to be named. "
Oct. 20, 2017, 10:34 pm

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