17.5: The Tainos and Columbus

Spread the love

The celebration of Columbus day had started among Italian Americans in San Francisco and became a national holiday in 1937. Recently, indigenous people and their allies have requested changing the celebration of Columbus Day to the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. While this is, in part, an effort to recognize the place of Native people in America’s history and culture, it is also a reaction against Columbus who, detractors say, does not deserve his own holiday. For them, Columbus is a villain. Certainly, Columbus played a central role in the Christianization of the Americas, specifically the Caribbean. His example inspired countless European explorers to cross the Atlantic and initiate ambitious programs of colonization which ultimately decimated native populations. But is the villainization of Columbus based on the fact that he set an example for explorers to follow or crimes committed by the man himself against the Caribbean’s indigenous people?