Archive | October 2015

1493 Day

Charles Mann followed up his 2006 book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in 2012, with 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, which is about the global impact of Europeans finding another New World to exploit.

In a similar vein at The Intercept, Jon Schwartz writes, COLUMBUS DAY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF EVERY YEAR:

Columbus’ landfall in the Western Hemisphere was the opening of Europe’s conquest of essentially all of this planet. By 1914, 422 years later, European powers and the U.S. controlled 85 percent of the world’s land mass.

White people didn’t accomplish this by asking politely. As conservative Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington put it in 1996, “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion … but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.”

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1492 Day

I have to admit a fondness for Columbus Day because my old boss Joe Vaghi used to let us take the day off. He was usually busy with the Columbus Day parade, and figured if he wasn’t around to watch us we wouldn’t work anyway. Tom, Hank and I did talk a lot more when he wasn’t around. None of my other bosses have given me that day.

Indigenous Peoples Day is a mouthful of a name for a holiday, and Native Americans Day is just as clumsy. Besides that, I was wondering if the holiday’s name could commemorate both European explorers and indigenous Americans.

So I nominate, “1492 Day.”

At Talking Points Memo, Ben Railton tells us the meaning behind granting a holiday for the Italians, explains the mythologizing of Columbus and suggests some other explorers that might be deserving of remembrance:

Among scholars and students of American history, the the figure to commemorate would be Bartolomé de las Casas, the Spanish diplomat-turned-priest who accompanied Columbus and other explorers to the Americas but who became over time both a vocal opponent of the European treatment of indigenous peoples and an advocate for those peoples’ rights and voices. In works such as his seminal Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1552), las Casas documented, fiercely critiqued and challenged European practices of enslavement, exploitation and genocide, offering a vital alternative narrative not only of the exploration era, but of European perspectives in and on that initial post-contact period.