Why do we celebrate Columbus Day?
I had something wonderful happen to me this morning - - actually stuff has been happening over the last few days – its like I've been preparing for what was going to come this morning. Have you ever heard a message, read a line in a book, or a song, or a line in a movie that you swore was placed there just for you?
Over the past few months I've been working on a huge project - - I've been transcribing hours of interviews – for a piece I'm writing on Afro Latino's. This subject is deep because we have some Latino's who are not interested in hearing that they are African - - the blackest Dominicans claim that they're white. So I've been working on this piece for a minute…yesterday I finished one of the biggest interviews – it was a conversation I had with my favorite NYU Professor – we spoke for several hours. She gave me tons of information – the conversation was a journey through history and the history that has never been taught. By the end of my taking notes I ended up with 26 pages worth of wisdom. As the interview came to a close she kept stressing that what I need to include in my piece was about the Moors in Spain – she admitted that there wasn't a lot she could offer me in this area – but stressed the importance of me finding out. Now I just finished hearing those words Sunday.
So Monday morning, October 8th 2007 – Columbus Day my alarm goes of as it does at 5:00am to WBAI…and I ignore it…it just plays – finally when I was making NO movement to get out of bed my alarm automatically shut itself off. Two hours later I decide to get up and get ready – I turn the radio on and to my surprise WBAI's wake up call is playing a recorded discussion on the Moors (on a personal level I was deeply touched – because I knew that I was supposed to hear this) NOW on a community level…this is information that should be shared. I am not sure who the speaker was – because I didn't catch his name he's a Professor at Emerson here's what I learned…
For a nation that celebrates Columbus Day – another way to look at it…
"Yam Karu - - The reality of the Native American"
It is said that slavery began in 1492, when Columbus began his supposed expedition to civilize nations. He arrives to his newly found land…and what we're taught is that Columbus sailed the ocean blue on the Nina, the pinta, the Santa Maria…and that he discovered America…
"We're not taught that Columbus encouraged the color coding of slaves – the creation of permanent labor – by force – and put a collar on them – with no pay – we are still suffering the psychological damage"
"In 1492 it marked the end of the Moorish rule in the country - - the moors had ruled Spain for 900 years before 1492. The most important element in Moorish Spain were the moors with their Islamic ways and Jews who had been there for 1000 years when you talk about the moors and Jews living together in Spain its not the same as here in NYC they lived side by side in harmony you could not tell the difference between them – other than their religion… only their religion defined them – the moors were highly civilized (evolved) and welcomed everyone from all religions – if only they had been like the Christians and rammed religion down their throats. The moors tried to civilize Spain for 900 years and did not succeed. The Christian Spanish –Castilian – remained ignorant even after 900 years.
After the fall of Granada – you hear – they defeated the moors - the first thing they did (Spanish troops went to one of the Moorish leaders) was approach the moors leaders – a man who was a cunning fellow almost as treacherous as Ferdinand – his opponent - they made a deal – he was paid (like Judas) 30,000 gold pieces and a mall principality where he could live with his people. The Moorish leader hands over Granada to Spain and the first thing they do is burn the books – some of the most priceless literature in the world of learning – it was the moors who gave back Europe – it was the Moorish island scholars who translated all of the great documents - Greek philosophies, Greek sciences, that had been lost to Europe and gave it back to Europe - - what a mistake! We don't hear that – we hear the great Spanish were going to civilize the world - in sciences and medicine. There wasn't a Spanish leader that didn't send out for a Moorish physician to look after them when they were ill. We are not taught that the moors were the most advanced physicians and scholars in Europe - - if you see the instruments that they used in the 14th and 15th century – you still see them in our hospitals today.
They never tell us the moor civilized Spain - - they never tell us that without the Moorish scholarship there world never have been a renaissance in Europe. No credit is given to the moors. Who were the moors? Who were the moors from Africa – they were from North Africa? You want to know what moors look like – go to morocco now (some are the darkest black, shades of brown and white). The moors were predominantly dark African people – buying slaves - - some of the Moorish rulers got so fair because of inter marriage. That some of the lighter Moorish people used to die there skin darker in order to legitimize themselves in the eyes of the followers – and we have Michael Jackson lightening his skin. (To be white was uncivilized – this is interesting…)
It was an African invasion of Europe that happened in 711 the – that began the conquest - -the only place that wasn't discovered – they went into Italy – France – tremendous expansion of Moorish power and if you look at old prints – the soldiers were ebony."
He quotes the film Elsid - - as "pure fiction – the Moorish leader was a bandit – he fought for both sides – they got corrupt. They never tell you that 10 years before 1492 – a small force from Grenada defeated a mighty Spain army. What you cannot win by force you win by guile. The Spanish couldn't defeat the moors."
"I am Christopher Columbus
I am he who did miss the land India
I thought I discovered that which was never
of me to see
The land beyond
I came to tame and claim
in the name of Spain
I am Chris – don't diss – my his…story
I inspired…Moorish selling
I exterminated, perpetuated, hatred
Red men, yellow men, with black men I make no friend
I attack, arrowack, cut off their head, wrote instead,
that the caribs ate them like bread
I never told you this before
But my chief navigator was a moor
You know the moors they discovered Spain
Those blacks who came from the African terrain
The idea that the world was round
I got from these same blacks in some little Spanish town –
Now you may ask – what was blacks doin dare
But they ruled for over 700 years - -
they made a great mistake then
Instead of enslaving us the made us their friend
Some survive – stayed alive – fought the invasion, European division, European aggression - - the fight between Europe and Europe expansion
I wrote your history for you -
did not tell you true –
not all black men came as slaves
You will know the truth in the waves that brought the ships
I am christopher Columbus
I gave Europe power over all the earth
500 years of your blood, sweat and tears
now you celebrate , recreate your death,
let the glasses touch with the blood of your fathers and mothers,
give a toast – to my arrival - - my survival - -
the land is still mine –
the pope is still the divine –
drink your own blood and call it wine -
nothing in the pages of my history will block our your misery - -
who shall celebrate my victory - -
your children praise me – I am your only history
I am Christopher Columbus - - I died but you made me live
Give me the place once more - - let me discover you again –
the stain my father blood rule - -
fool you celebrate my coming - -
no I will not go – not from your mind –
restore me for all to see –
keepers of evil –
shepherds of my people –
lead them to the alter of lies – your ancestor cries –
will not be heard –
word after word –
pages of history written –
the victims are once more bitten.
1492 to you
the beginning of western world democracy
1492 to me
the beginning of white supremacy"
(by Poet – Adu Baluka – not sure if I am spelling this correctly – poem called Columbus's Ghost)
What's interesting here is that we learn a history that teaches us that in 1492 Columbus strolls up and civilizes this world…We never hear that this land is stolen –we hear stories of Plymouth rock – and how the pilgrims arrived and they coexisted with the Native Americans and they had some sort of huge feast and lived in harmony –I have never heard a native American historian tell this version of the story… we need to re-write U.S. history – there is much to be included.
The speaker continues:
"We live in a Columbus Day myth….1492 something magical began to happen – this intrepid sailor – other people also made the trip – people crossed the Atlantic on anything that could float…"
Yes he took the journey – not the best way to come – a black Puerto Rican scholar – Aurelio Theo – was in the archives in Madrid looking up material on Columbus and found documents pointing out that the Moorish sailors were very advanced in their sailing skill that they were trained to tell direction by watching the way the waves and currents moved. They were brilliant."
"With racism there are all kinds of distortion"
He talked about when Ponce de Leon – a greedy genocidal man – tried to colonize Florida for 100 years…that the native Americans fought – they fought ferociously – they weren't having it – they were the Appalachia (not sure of spelling)…they were great fighters/warriors.
"They had long arrows and special bows – they neutralized the Spanish who were coming – Europe was invading…they wanted to control all of Florida" (It made sense that the Spanish wanted to control Florida…they wanted to block the slaves from the leaving – block all exits.)
"At the time when disease wiped out a lot of the Native Americans – blacks began to run away into Florida – slaves escaped from Cuba – going to Florida – and the LARGEST résistance in the history was of the Columbian era – its one of the best kept secrets in North American." We must question why this is.
"Go to all the African American studies departments around this country – ask them how many blacks fought a continuous insurgence in the continental United States for 150 years and that by 1856 – 2/3 of the entire armed forces of the US was fighting against those Native Americans and African insurgents. You would think something of that magnitude would be everyday knowledge to you - that you would have learned this in elementary school. You were never taught this! None of you know this - you were taught that uprisings were crushed!"
"Seminoles don't exist – this word was used to describe blacks who escaped from the Carolinas and Georgia and VA – the first Seminoles were black – how do we know this – the white army were writing letters that they were fighting blacks in Florida.
Wherever we have united – the black and native Americans are natural allies- they worked together…"
Why isn't this in our history books? And why are we still celebrating this day…considered a day of genocide…
I leave you with another piece of reading:
"F$^ Columbus...Columbus Day means Genocide Day"
By Roberto Mucaro Borrero
"As Columbus Day fast approaches so does the realization that it is one of the most controversial of 8 U.S federal holidays. At least 17 States do not celebrate or recognize the holiday and plans for annual protests and related educational initiatives are well under way across the United States.
While some Americans question why all there is so much the controversy toward the "discoverer of the New World", I am reminded of the collective "human spirit" that brought together the nations who developed the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948. The United States was among the original signatories of this Convention whose second article states that genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
In light of this definition, as we review the legacy of Columbus - from the acts he personally committed to atrocities committed by his "countrymen" and successors - one would be hard pressed to not see the connections to the genocide of Caribbean and other Indigenous Peoples throughout the hemisphere.
Whether "mixed or full blood", the contemporary descendants of the first Indigenous Peoples to meet Columbus, the Taino, Carib, and Arawak Peoples are survivors of what can be considered a centuries-old campaign of genocide committed against our communities. From the encomienda system to the sterilization of our women to the commodity and genetically modified foods that have been imposed on our rural or urban "ghetto-ized" communities, this genocidal campaign continues albeit in subtle forms. These vestiges of old colonial regimes masquerading as a new world order affect the well-being of not only our present but our future generations.
Although Columbus himself never set foot in the United States, Indigenous Peoples throughout the country recognize that the celebration of the federally (tax payer) funded holiday called Columbus Day is a symbol of genocide. Promotion of Columbus as a "hero" is racism as its one-sided mainstream presentation attempts to sanitize the injustices committed during his time or the injustices that continue to be committed against our Peoples today.
Indeed, Columbus Day supporters vindicate the celebration of these injustices under the guise of an alleged "civilizing" of savage, non-European peoples.
With regard to racism, I refer to the Webster's definition, which holds that it is "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race." In the same definition, racism is further defined as "racial prejudice or discrimination."
Again, by reviewing the motives behind the Columbus enterprise as well as his actions toward and against the Indigenous Peoples of the Caribbean, we can link not only the man himself but his legacy and symbolism directly to racism. This link can be made much in the same way there was an outcry against flying the Confederate Flag on U.S. government grounds. The Confederate flag is linked by many to the legacy of slavery and it is generally accepted that slavery in the past or present constitutes a gross human rights violation unacceptable by "civilized" standards today.
Columbus was a slave trader and the majority of his contemporaries promoted and exported this institution. Fueled by his philosophy of racial superiority, Columbus instituted systems on behalf of the King and Queen of Spain, which fundamentally denied the self-determination of Caribbean Indigenous Peoples.
This racist philosophy has been supported at all levels of imposed government regimes including past and present educational systems.
Contemporary Taino descendants should have a particular interest in this subject as government and educational institutions continue to deny our right to self-determination by denying our existence. The denial of our right to self-determination is a violation of our basic human rights. Our right to self-determination was recently acknowledged by the United Nations with its adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Non-Taino academics who are elevated to the status of "experts" on our culture without any consultation with our communities are intentionally or unintentionally parties to these human rights violations. While we remain "invisible" peoples with no rights, "they" remain free to say and promote what they want to say about ancestors, our people and our heritage.
Make no mistake if you are a Taino, your rights are being violated everyday whether you want to admit it or not. These violations do not discriminate against "full bloods or mix bloods" as they are violations against our communities as a whole. Our most recent example of the violation of our rights as Taino people is evidenced by the "Grito de Caguana" protest in Boriken (Puerto Rico) and the arrest of Taino people occupying our sacred ceremonial grounds. These violations, these examples of racial prejudice and discrimination as well as the promotion of symbols of genocide against our ancestors and our peoples must not be tolerated even at the most subtle level.
Referring back to Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 3 states that along with genocide; conspiracy to commit genocide; direct and public incitement to commit genocide; attempt to commit genocide; and complicity in genocide are all punishable by law.
As we turn our attention toward the state-sponsored promotion of symbols of genocide such as Columbus and Columbus Day, it becomes ever clearer that our present and future generations can not afford our complicity. While the legacy of Columbus is a part of our collective history, it is not a legacy that should be sanctified with a national celebration at the expense of those whose ancestors gave their lives defending their liberty against a brutal and unjustifiable oppression."
Roberto Mucaro Borrero is the President of the United Confederation of Taino People’s Office of International Relations and Regional Coordination. He is also the current Chairperson of the NGO Committee on the United Nations International Decade of the World..s Indigenous Peoples, a Special Committee of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations - CONGO.