Columbus Day – Should We Continue to Celebrate?

“Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492” is probably one of the first phrases that comes to mind when the name Christopher Columbus is mentioned. Other times, most people just know him as the reason we have no school on the second Monday of October.

Of course, both of those are correct, but there’s way more to the story than just that. As most people know, the reason why we have school off on Columbus Day is because on August 3, 1492, Columbus led three ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, out of Palos. He arrived in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. The purpose of his voyage was to find an all-water route to Asia. When he landed in the island he called Hispaniola, he encountered Natives which he decided to call Indians as he believed he was in India.

However, Christopher Columbus is also a very controversial figure. Some view him as a heroic discoverer of America, while others see him as the cause of a great genocide of  Native Americans.  Those who view him in a positive light naturally think of him as an important figure representing America, however those who view him in a negative light think of him as someone who drove out people from their homes, while causing the death of thousands of others due to forced labor. The debate has gone on for many years, and a few people at West have expressed their opinions.

Sophomore Emily Montesinos says, “I don’t really think [Columbus Day] should be celebrated because he didn’t have a positive influence and lots of people teach that he was good to the Native Americans but he didn’t do much that wasn’t negative.” For years, young students have been taught that Columbus was a hero, but it’s true that many other details aren’t revealed to students until they’re older. People don’t generally figure out how Columbus contributed to the major depopulation of Natives; diseases carried from Europe, violence, and cruel labor resulted in a major death count.

Mrs. Rio, history teacher, says, “It’s a very complex issue. It’s important to look at the reasons the holiday was actually created, and then we need to ask ourselves is that being done in a way that is going to represent all the interests of people that are affected by the history? You can’t ignore the history in terms of what happened. I think there still needs to be a conversation though. I think you can’t just completely dismiss Columbus and his legacy because then that’s also an incomplete story. So how do we find a way to acknowledge both sides? The holiday should be a teachable moment to really look at how it’s affected people and how it’s been remembered throughout history.”

Overall, it does come straight down to that. Columbus did discover America; however, he many question his intentions and treatment of Native Americans. In the end, Columbus Day is a day to celebrate the discovery of our country as well as learn from the mistreatment of Native Americans in order to move forward.