In the United States, October 12th (and now the second Monday of October) is known as Columbus Day, a federal holiday since 1937. It was celebrated unofficially by a number of cities and states far earlier than that – some dating back to the 18th century.I would like to think that all travelers will be giving a nod of thanks to the courage of that daring 15th century explorer who has been credited throughout history with discovering the New World.
|Christopher Columbus statue - Lisbon, Portugal|
“There are three main sources of controversy involving Columbus’s interactions with the indigenous people he labeled “Indians”: the use of violence and slavery, the forced conversion of native peoples to Christianity, and the introduction of a host of new diseases that would have dramatic long-term effects on native people in the Americas.”
(Those indigenous people did introduce Columbus – and thus, the Old World -- to tobacco. In fact they gave him some of the dried leaves as a welcome, and he later learned from them how to smoke it, so in some ways maybe they got some revenge early on.)
|Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492|
In reality, it would be difficult to find a ‘hero’ in history who didn’t have some character or behavioral flaws shadowing their lauded contributions, wouldn’t it? We can name several and I suspect you can as well. People aren’t perfect, plain and simple!
|Replica of one of Columbus's ships - Funchal, Madeira|
|Navigation in 1492 on left; present-day cruise ship bridge|
|Crossing the Atlantic - only sea and sky and our ship|
The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the earth’s four oceans.
Its surface area is about 31,660 sq. miles (82 million sq. kilometers).
It has an an average depth of 12,881 feet (3926 meters). Its deepest point is the
Puerto Rico Trench with a depth of 28,681 feet (8742 meters).
|Leaving Fort Lauderdale to cross the Atlantic|
|On the Atlantic Ocean|
Yet . .we pause as we pass that last tip of land knowing we will see nothing but water and sky – no birds, no ships for at least six days . . . I can’t imagine being in those tiny wooden ships that took two months to cross the Atlantic and not knowing when I would see land again.
Unlike on this side of the Atlantic, we’ve seen tributes – towering statues and monuments -- to Columbus and his fellow early day explorers throughout Europe; Lisbon, Madeira, Cadiz, Seville, Barcelona, just to name a few. The enormous tribute below, the Monument to the Discoveries (Padrao dos Descobrimentos) on the approach to Lisbon, Portugal honors Henry the Navigator.
|Monument to the Discoveries - Lisbon, Portugal|
If you’ve stayed with me this long, and you hadn’t noticed, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet, and here’s why:
|Seattle Space Needle|
A Seattle council member was quoted as saying, (Columbus) “played such a pivotal role in the worst genocide humankind has ever known.”
What put the bee in my bonnet was the singular focus; the condemnation of a portion of his actions without recognition of the exploration, the discovery – not even by the media who covered the council's deliberations.
I believe all historic events are most accurately told by more than one story - if we don’t tell them all, our true history will be lost.
|Native American Totem Pole - Seattle|
In reality, Washington State doesn’t recognize Columbus Day (meaning it isn’t a day off work for most).
Indigenous People’s Day is much the same; no time off, just a holiday in name only.
Without a day off work, the day -- by either name -- will likely go unnoticed by most living in the “New World”.
I suspect that if my maternal grandparents, who at the turn of the 20th century escaped to the “New World” from the Russian hell-hole in which they lived, were still alive, they’d be celebrating the day set aside to honor the guy credited with discovering it.
Perhaps in that sense, we all should be celebrating those early discoverers.
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