Monday, October 14, 2013

Columbus Day

Columbus Day first became a federal holiday in the United States in 1937 as a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus. Catholic immigration in the mid-19th century induced discrimination from anti-immigrant activists. Like many other immigrant communities, Catholics developed organizations to fight discrimination and provide insurance for the struggling immigrants. The predominately-Irish immigrants who organized themselves as the Knights of Columbus, chose that name in part because it saw Christopher Columbus as a fitting symbol of Catholic immigrants' right to citizenship: one of their own, a fellow Catholic, had discovered America. They manufactured the truth and made Columbus an All-American hero.

The truth be told, Columbus was not a great man. He was a slave trader. His voyages were not for scientific exploration but for profit; by contract he was entitled to 10 percent of the profits.

Public holidays are important in forming approved national identity. Columbus Day commemorates the brutality of the Spanish Conquest, and the deaths of tens of millions of natives throughout the Americas. Some estimate that there were 100 million Indians in the Americas; this number fell to about 10 million. In 1492, the population on the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) was estimated at above 3 million. Within 20 years it was reduced to only 60,000, and within 50 years, not a single original native inhabitant was left.

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