Monday, October 10, 2005

The Day the Indians Discovered Columbus

WARNING: US History Lesson. Contains Graphic Language

When I studied at City College of NY, I took a Carribbean Studies class that exploded many misconceptions and myths planted in my head.
It was the first time I learned that "the Indians" Columbus discovered had names. Taino. Arawak. Carib.

I learned that many English words come from the Taino language.
(hammock, potato, savannah and hurricane)

I learned that women sometimes served as chiefs or cacique.

I learned that the Tainos built canoes that could hold 100 people.

I learned that the Spainards enslaved the Tainos, infected them with deadly diseases, tortured and butchered runaways, and raped the women.

Bartolom├ęde Las Casas, a Spanish priest, documented some of the atrocities against the native people at the hands of his fellow Spaniards. I feel sick everytime I read his words.
They forced their way into native settlements, slaughtering everyone they found there, including small children, old men, pregnant women, and even women who had just given birth. They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen.

They even laid wagers on whether they could manage to slice a man in two at a stroke, or cut an individual's head from his body, or disembowel him with a single blow of their axes.

They grabbed suckling infants by the feet and, ripping them from their mothers' breasts, dashed them headlong against the rocks. Others, laughing and joking all the while, threw them over their shoulders into a river, shouting: 'Wriggle, you little perisher.'
While crying out against the injustices done to the Tainos, Las Casas opened the door to injustice against the people of Africa by proposing that Africans be used as slaved instead of the dwindling Taino population.

In the USA we celebrate only two national holidays to honor specific men.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Christopher Columbus.

This so clearly reflects the bi-polar nature of American foreign and domestic policy.

Today is Columbus Day.

A Day to mourn.
A Day to speak out against the genocide of an ancient people
A Day to acknowledge and speak out against injustice done to the Tainos, Africans and their descendents.
A Day like every other day when we can make a difference to undo some of the wrongs that have been done.


At 3:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

columbus was an idiot and does not deserve to have his own day, just to let u no. by the way this blog is stupid as it was written on columbus day 2005 and today is 1-27-06 and this is still the only comment so far

At 1:05 PM , Blogger Peterson Toscano said...

columbushater, yeah, I've been unhappy that no one has responded to this post until you did. Crazy. I do lots of works around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual issues and I sometimes feel that many in the LGBT community (especially white folks like me) see only our own oppression.

I agree, Columbus should not have a day to celebrate him and the slaughter he brought to the first nation people. As an Italian-American, (one of the groups that most strongly celebrate the holiday with parades and such) I think we should change the name and the focus to the native peoples with a celebration of their brilliance and a day of mourning for the atrocities done to them then and atrocities by our government to many peoples in the world today in the US and beyond.

Thanks for writing.


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