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Columbus Day: A Day for Celebration or One to Forget?

As we're off from school today, along with many other state employees, some people may wonder why this day is devoted to the controversial Christopher Columbus.

A monument of the Christopher Columbus, in a section of NYC named for the name, Columbus Circle.

Photo by Creative Commons

A monument of the Christopher Columbus, in a section of NYC named for the name, Columbus Circle.

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Lately there has been a lot of controversy over whether or not Columbus Day should be celebrated as a federal holiday or not. Did Columbus really discover the Americas? Does it matter? How much credit should be given to this Italian explorer?

Christopher Columbus was an Italian-born explorer who, in 1492, happened to land in the West Indies while searching for an alternative, Western route from Europe to India. As many of us know, this voyage eventually connected European world with  two entire continents which they hadn’t known existed before. This voyage on the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria would prove to change the history of the world for many reasons. One of these most controversial reasons is that Columbus began to enslave the Native Americans he encountered there, setting a precedent that would eventually lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans. This massive depopulation due to disease, murder, and exploitation of natives serves as the biggest argument against celebrating Columbus- he began what would become a genocide.

However, this voyage connected two worlds that had previously little-to-no knowledge of the other’s existence. Columbus set up a trade route that would tremendously influence the connection between East and West and set up the borders and culture currently present in the Americas. If it weren’t for Columbus, Ireland would never have known the potato and the Americas the horse; the goods exchanged along these trade routes quite literally changed the world. The connection created by Columbus would eventually lead the era of colonization which would lead to the establishment of the United States of America, Canada, Mexico, Brazil- all of the countries we know today, as the pre-Columbian Americas did not include countries and these countries of the present day were set up by Europeans.

Another point of contention about the American celebration of Columbus Day is that Columbus did not even land on “American” soil- he never even set foot on North America, rather he explored the Caribbean Islands and South America. Here the question arises about why we should celebrate a man who was not directly involved in the creation of America as we know it or participate in any “truly American” historical event.

On the other hand, shouldn’t we celebrate this man who connected the two halves of the world and changed history? If it weren’t for Columbus, would we be here today? If not for anything lose, shouldn’t we celebrate the man who brought us all here today? Couldn’t we just take the day off and not bother about the reasons? It’s up to you to decide: is Columbus Day a day for celebration or just another day?

If you would like to read more on this debate, check out these links:


http://www.history.com/topics/exploration/columbus-controversy

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/learning/should-the-united-states-celebrate-columbus-day.html

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/why-we-celebrate-columbus-day/

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Columbus Day: A Day for Celebration or One to Forget?”

  1. Sam on October 9th, 2017 10:38 pm

    Love that you brought this issue to The Red & Black, as well as brought the two conflicting views together.

    [Reply]

  2. Karen Varacalli on October 11th, 2017 8:31 am

    Great article and viewpoints. It is great to bring to light these differing points. It is something that we will have to debate and decide in the future.

    [Reply]

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Columbus Day: A Day for Celebration or One to Forget?