Chris Critiques: Christopher Columbus Day

Happy National Asshole Day

Critique and illustration by: Chris Talbot-Heindl

Today is one of the days of the year that I don mourning clothes and think about the completely ludicrous idea that this day is celebrated as a national holiday. Of course, no one would know that I’m wearing mourning clothes, as let’s face it, I look really great in black, and wear it quite often.

So, I am publicly stating, my black attire today, is because Christopher Columbus was an asshole and so are people who continue to “celebrate” this asshole.

First, a little Columbus Day history. A lot of folks already know that Columbus was an asshole but insist that the Day dedicated to him is historical and shouldn’t be thrown out because some “Indians” are butthurt about it being a national holiday. To them, I say what I always say: open a damned book.

The first time the holiday was recognized as such in the United States was in 1906 in Colorado, and it became a federal holiday in 1937. In some states and local governments, it is not observed. South Dakota, for instance, celebrates this day as “Native American Day” and since 1992, the city of Berkeley, California celebrates “Indigenous People’s Day.” In Venezuela, Dia de la Resistencia Indigena (Day of Indigenous Resistance) is celebrated and in 2004, a statue of Columbus was knocked down by activists and left down.

And why did other cities, states, and countries end the praises of Christopher Columbus by axing the holiday? Because, Columbus was a genocidal, enslaving, rapist bastard.

Columbus, working for the Spanish crown, came to the New World in search of things he could bring back to Spain; this we all know. He landed (in what is now the Bahamas) and found gold and generous, peaceful, unassuming natives from the Lucayan tribe.  The tribe’s people fed him and his men, and gave them shelter. But, Columbus was more interested in the gold that they wore.

He also saw an opportunity to turn the native people into slaves. He captured and took six of the Lucayan tribe on his voyage. He noted in his journal: “These people are very unskilled in arms…I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.”

Columbus, with the six Lucayan tribe’s people on the Santa Clara and Santa Maria, continued on. The Santa Maria was shipwrecked in Haiti. The Taino tribe there aided Columbus in saving the crew and cargo and allowed Columbus to leave some of his men there in the new settlement of La Navidad. In return, Columbus captured more natives and continued sailing.

His next and last stop was in the Dominican Republic, and the first time Columbus found resistance. The Ciguayos refused to trade the amount of weapons that Columbus desired. Columbus’ men killed two of the native people and kidnapped 25 more, and headed back for Spain.

By the time he returned to Spain, only seven or eight of the native people were still living. Columbus informed the queen of all the riches and slaves that could be had in the New World. She gave him 17 ships with 1,500 men, and a complete arsenal with which to acquire the riches.

He returned to the generous, peaceful, unassuming Lucayan people and demanded gold and to be allowed to rape their women. Of course, the Lucayan people refused.

To make sure he would not meet more resistance, Columbus ordered that those who did refuse have their ears and noses cut off. The natives could no longer be peaceful and generous and rebelled, but were quickly quelled with the queen’s arsenal.

Columbus enslaved 500 Lucayan natives and returned to Spain with them so they could be sold as slaves. He provided gifts of female natives to his friends to do as they wished. A friend reported in a letter that Columbus had provided him with a sex slave. He wrote, “While I was in the boat, I captured a very beautiful Carib woman…When I had taken her to my cabin, she was naked – as was their custom. I was filled with desire to take my pleasure with her and attempted to satisfy my desire. She was unwilling…I then took a piece of rope and whipped her soundly…Eventually we came to such terms, I assure you, that you would have thought that she had been brought up in a school for whores.”

The horrors that Columbus conducted could go on and on. Suffice it to say, Columbus was indeed an asshole and the holiday is an erroneous honor.

So, today is a day that I don black and explain to those around me what a sham the holiday is. But what else can be done?

The Oatmeal has a great article about how we can take this sham holiday and instead celebrate Bartolomé de las Casas, who “after witnessing the violent atrocities committed against the Natives…gave up his land, freed his slaves, became a priest, and spent the rest of his life fighting the brutal colonization of the New World.” Read more about Bartolomé de las Casas here.

Another action that can be taken is signing the White House petition to end Columbus Day, but of course, you’ll have to wait until the Republican’s pity party government shut down ends to do that.

Of course, while we’re waiting for the Congress to stop sitting on their thumbs, you could write legislation for your local government to stop the celebration there and follow the shining examples of Berkeley, California and others. In other words, you can petition your government to stop being an asshole.