OPINION: Columbus Day Rediscovered


He sailed the ocean blue, he enabled European expansion through the Americas, he sought a new land of vast abundance…

Christopher Columbus, commonly known as the discoverer of America, has been celebrated for his seemingly grand feat of finding our nation since 1937. Every second Monday of October for the past 80 years, Americans have been reminded of this so-called profound explorer, while they enjoy a leisurely day away from work on the holiday we know as Columbus Day.

However, recently his successes have not been met with unanimous admiration or warm regards throughout the country. Multiple cities such as Albuquerque, Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles, and now the city of Austin have renamed this federal holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. As it is still a federal holiday, the name cannot simply be abated, although now Austin city calendars will no longer refer to this day as Columbus Day.

Yet, what Christopher Columbus is actually celebrated for has been a widely debated topic for years. And frankly, it is questionable how he obtained such recognition in the first place.

For starters, Columbus was sent to make a way to India by King Ferdinand to find spices, gold, and presumably anything else which would be of use to them. Therefore, he began his journey in search of Asia but after numerous calculation mistakes, subsequently wound up on an island close to what we now know as the Bahamas. There, he was met with incredibly giving indigenous peoples, who just happened to hold on their ears the exact element he was looking for: gold. After then finding the island’s abundance of gold, Columbus and his men hijacked the lives of the natives; raping, murdering, enslaving them, and committing plenty of other atrocious acts of exploitation. As a result of Columbus and his successors’ treatment, within two years, 125,000 (half of the population) natives were murdered. Bartolome de las Casa, a man who joined with Columbus on one of his voyages, accounted in his book History of the Indies, Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel… My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write.”

Growing up, the only substantial thing I learned about Columbus was that he was the first explorer to discover America, which is what I assumed granted him the right to have his own federal holiday. Now, in fact, I have learned that the Vikings made their way towards America some 500 years earlier and Leif Erikson has secured the title of being the first foreigner to step foot on North American land, as they were said to have settled near Newfoundland.

With these things in mind, Columbus has undoubtedly earned a place in history, as he did initiate settlements and expansion throughout America and did make a grand name for himself. But, as the vehement tyrant he was, Columbus should not earn the title of founder of America and certainly does not deserve a holiday in his name. Instead it is the Native Americans, the hard-workers, the ill-treated, the murdered who deserve to be recognized.