CON: Columbus' legacy 'steeped in blood, violence and death'

Sonny Long

Oct. 6, 2013 at 5:06 a.m.

The Transform Columbus Day Alliance minces no words in its distaste for the Columbus Day holiday.

"The Columbus legacy is steeped in blood, violence and death," the organization says on its website.

"The Transform Columbus Day Alliance actively rejects the celebration of Christopher Columbus and his legacy of domination, oppression and colonialism.

"We also reject historical misconceptions regarding Columbus and his 'discovery' of the Americas."

Susan Taylor, a University of Houston-Victoria lecturer in history, said history shows flaws in many stories about Columbus.

"Most of the stories that people in the U.S. know about Columbus (and are still taught in our elementary schools) aren't historically accurate," she said.

"For example, the story about how people in the Middle Ages thought that the world was flat and that Columbus would sail off the edge if he went west across the Atlantic, that's not at all true."

People in the Middle Ages believed that the earth was spherical, she said, and knew its circumference within 1 percent of its actual size, thanks to the Greek philosopher Eratosthenes.

"There are also issues with Columbus' own accounts of his exploration; he wasn't always honest about what he was doing and what he found," Taylor said.

And he was a slave trader.

Columbus and his men enslaved many native inhabitants of the West Indies and subjected them to extreme violence and brutality, according to the website.

"Columbus' own logs and letters are also controversial because in his first description of the indigenous peoples he met in the Caribbean, he wrote that they would be easy to conquer and subjugate and would make good servants," said Taylor.

"Some people believe that we should celebrate the beginning of that contact, while others believe that we should keep in mind that it also meant the beginning of conflict between Europeans and Native Americans."

Carlos Garcia Jr., of Victoria, who works in quality control at a pipe-fitting company, agrees with Taylor's points.

"If more people would dig into his history, they probably wouldn't celebrate it," he said.

"It's more important to some than to others."

Victoria electrician Elissa Emmons says there are others more deserving of the recognition.

"I don't think Columbus should have a holiday," she said.

"There are more important people who should be recognized, like Amerigo Vespucci. America is named after him."

Vespucci was another Italian explorer who took part in early voyages to the New World.

PRO: Columbus Day meaningful to Italian-Americans



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