Friday, October 12, 2018

About Columbus and His Day

In my travels, I have photographed a number of dedications to Cristoforo Columbo.
 Columbus Circle, New York City (30 October 2015)

I was raised in an Italian neighborhood in New York City. My recollections of elementary school education are as ‘white bread’ and white washed as one might imagine. There were no people of color in my east Bronx school…or my history books for that matter, except for the cursory mention of slavery before Lincoln ended it and maybe Booker T. Washington later. All of my P.S. 83 teachers were mature white women, many of whom also taught my mother and her siblings more than two decades earlier…the same material, no doubt.
(I know…there will be some revisionist snark here. This is NOT about ‘political correctness.’ It’s about FACTS. What happened hundreds of years ago was what most everyone wanted. It took a while to change and acknowledge what really happened but we did…many of us anyway.)

What do I remember learning about the earliest days of this nation?

Being New Yorkers, we learned that Henry Hudson sailed up the river that now bears his name and traded $24 worth of shiny crap for the possession of Manhattan Island. There goes the neighborhood. Shiploads of Dutch people came. New Amsterdam became New York. What happened to the Manhattan Indians? Not discussed.

But before all that…Christopher Columbus, that great Italian navigator/sailor/explorer, ‘discovered’ America. October 12th was the day he thought he landed somewhere around India. What happened after that? It seemed to be presented as little more than conquests, territorial expansion…Manifest Destiny…until all those revolutions of independence. Now the Europeans who moved here wanted to manage for their own benefit what they did for their sovereigns across the pond. It didn’t change how we treated the people who were here first.

Christopher Columbus High School,
Bronx, NY (1 November 2005)

Shot through a car window, this drive-by captures an
ominous, less-than-friendly (but secure) appearance.
Such is life in the Big City.

I remember Columbus Day was always October 12th… our first day off from school each academic year. If it fell on a weekend, tough noogies…better luck next year. Now it’s the second Monday in October so federal and bank employees always get a three-day weekend.

My resident community, Columbia, Maryland, is named after him as are the state capitols of Ohio and South Carolina. I graduated from Christopher Columbus High School. Like I said, where I was from, the guy was a big deal.

Columbus Fountain, Union Station, Washington, D.C. (4 April 2005)

But wait! Starting in the late 1800’s, scholars began to recognize evidence that another European might have made it to North America earlier…which Columbus never did on any of his four voyages. All his landings were on Caribbean islands and South America.

The blasphemy that was upsetting certain partisans, especially in New York, was about the Vikings, who ventured west from Norway to settle Iceland in the late 800’s. Upon hearing about a place that an earlier sailor had seen after being blown off course on his way to Greenland, Viking Leif Erikson made it all the way to Newfoundland and established a settlement there around the year 1000. They called it Vinland. They were the first Europeans to set foot on North America…and they did it 500 years before Columbus.

Columbus Statue, State Capitol Grounds,
Columbus, Ohio (15 June 2009)

This, as one might expect, upset some people. I remember the American Italian Anti-Defamation League took up the cause. The organization was formed in the late ‘60’s to combat negative stereotyping of Italians. They wanted you to believe there was no such thing as the Mafia and that Italians were wrongly portrayed in the media.  Led by (Mafia boss) Joe Columbo, they would protest and picket certain events and products. By the early 70’s, the organization faded from view…especially after other Mafia kingpins put a hit out on Columbo and he was shot down at a rally in Columbus Circle in New York City in 1971. You can’t make this stuff up.

So, here’s to Chris. With each passing year, one has to wonder if his ‘accomplishments’ were all that great. Clearly, European colonization of the New World was inevitable. If the Italian bank-rolled by the Spanish didn’t open up the western hemisphere for pillage, plunder and genocide, the Portuguese, French and English would have…and certainly did.

Columbus Grave, Seville Cathedral,
Spain (4 October 2005)

To round out this story as few can, here is an image of CC’s last resting place. He died in 1506 in Spain. His remains were moved to colonial Santo Domingo, then Cuba, before they were returned to Spain in 1898. He is now in an elaborate, raised bier or catafalque in the Seville Cathedral.

More jurisdictions and colleges are ditching any recognition of C.C. in favor of recognizing the Native Americans who suffered and declined once the European colonization began. For anyone who thinks this is just another example of political correctness run amok, try to take an objective look at our history…maybe even put yourself in the place of the people who lived here for thousands of years before the land was “discovered.” How would you feel if strange, foreign people with advanced weaponry landed in your community and decided to [a] kill you or [b] enslave you or [c] take your provisions or [d] rape your women or [e] drive you away from your homeland or [f] infect you with new diseases you never experienced before?

Consequently, more places now call this holiday ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day’ or ‘Native Americans Day.’

I’m all on board with that.


At 3:37 PM, Blogger Ven Sriram said...

Well said Ted. A sobering (and factual) recollection.

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Ted Ringger said...

Thank you, Sir. Truth and facts seem to be no match for the myths and lies that some people believe they need to hold onto power. The Italian partisans are a mild example compared with the scoundrels who write the school book curriculum standards for big states like Texas. Thanks for visiting.

At 4:34 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Nice work Ted, bring on NPD!

Some newer research has discovered that Columbus was probably an Spanish Jew, about to be thrown out of Spain when he sold his exploration idea to Ferdinand and Isabella. The trip appears to have been financed by Italian Jews out to make some bucks. Lo and behold; he "discovers" someone else's land for a murdering Spanish nobility and ......the rest is history!


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