Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Home News Columbus Day: A Legacy of Tyranny

Columbus Day: A Legacy of Tyranny

#SomosIndigenas #IndigenousPeoplesDay

By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

On Aug. 8, Councilman Joe Buscaino released a letter urging constituents to attend the Aug. 22 Los Angeles City Council meeting and oppose what he called a “misguided proposal” to replace references to Columbus Day in official city documents with Indigenous People’s Day.

In that letter, Buscaino chose to wrap Columbus in the value cloth of willful immigration and diversity. He even goes so far as to say,  “Columbus, or Columbia, is no longer about a man … it is now a universal theme.”

As a first-generation Chicano of indigenous Mayan ancestry, I find Buscaino’s call for action deeply troubling.

Buscaino argues that Columbus Day “recognizes the beginning of a worldwide immigration to America.” Crediting Christopher Columbus with  opening the door for Europeans to immigrate to the Americas isn’t unreasonable. But crediting him with the diversity of our country? That’s not only myopic, but irresponsible. Columbus Day does more than just celebrate immigrants coming to the Americas for a better life; it glorifies a legacy of tyranny, the greed of which brought death and cruelty to a continent. For people of indigenous ancestry, Columbus not only symbolizes the colonization that came from this encounter but also the injustice that still reverberates in the generational hearts of Native Americans.

After “discovering” the so-called “New World,” Columbus left 39 men there when he returned to Spain. They helped themselves to the local native women until Columbus returned with 1,200 more soldiers, who continued where the original 39 left off–raping, pillaging and torturing. The Spaniards found this (morally) easy to do because they considered the natives subhuman.

Christopher Columbus allowed his men to use the natives as dog food.

The mistreatment of indigenous people during Columbus’ voyages is well-documented in letters from passengers and crew members. The correspondence describes how native people were captured and pressed to work in gold mines to the point of exhaustion. Those who resisted or refused were tortured or gruesomely murdered. Failure to produce at least a thimble of gold every three months was punishable. The violators’ hands were cut off and tied around their necks, then left to bleed to death. Some 10,000 indigenous persons died during this time.

Columbus was significantly involved in setting up the slave trade that sold girls — as young as nine years old — for sex.

Letters and diaries of soldiers under Columbus’s command document the standard practice of feeding their attack dogs the body parts of indigenous people. Even the tossing of living babies to the dogs was documented.

If Columbus Day “is no longer about a man,” as Buscaino suggests, why not create a celebration about a people? Italian American heritage is something to be celebrated. Why equate Italian Americans with such a ruthless mercenary?

In the 241 years since the birth of the United States and almost 525 years since Columbus reached the Caribbean islands, thousands of Italians and Italian Americans have made their mark on American culture. Perhaps those Italian and Italian descendents would be of greater influence and relevance to Italian-American heritage and pride.

Buscaino said he believes that “recent news events highlight the need for racial and ethnic harmony.”

In the days following his letter,  James Alex Fields, Jr., an avowed white nationalist, drove his car into a crowd of anti-white-supremacy demon- strators. The protest and counter-protest, a demonstration comprised of white fascists and the Ku Klux Klan,  followed the decision to take down the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who has become an icon of the far right.

Thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer was killed and several people were injured.

What Christopher Columbus represents and what Gen. Robert E. Lee represents aren’t that far apart.

If Buscaino truly believes in the importance of teaching, “young people about the contributions of all cultures,” then let’s start with a reality check and look at the man he wants to celebrate. The impacts of colonization and Columbus are still felt by natives across the two American continents.

Indigenous people face mass incarceration, poverty, land stripping, exploitation of natural resources, violence against women and children, failed education, housing issues, inadequate health care, suicide, and culture and language death, among other issues.

It is easy for people of privilege to ignore history and the suffering inflicted by centuries of injustice, conveniently using fear about the dissolution of a culture to maintain the status quo.

It astounds me that a councilman — who was only able to give one instance of his accomplishments (a pool in South Los Angeles) during his State of the District — has decided to use his energy to urge constituents to counter the council’s progressive move, instead of focusing on authoring meaningful ordinances that would improve the quality of life for his district’s residents.

I urge the councilman to rethink his stance. I support his call for constituents to attend the Aug. 22 meeting, but in support of the proposal to eliminate the celebration of a historical monster. Also, the Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to discuss and vote on Indigenous People’s Day on Aug. 30. Continuing to celebrate Columbus Day is misguided. Ignoring the realities of our history is lazy, insensitive and privileged, and the refusal to remove these references that no longer reflect our values is problematic.

Zamná Ávila
Zamná Ávila
Zamná Ávila is the assistant editor at Random Lengths News. He also is co-president for the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association (NLGJA-LA), as well as a board member at-large with the California Chican@ News Media Association/National Association of Hispanic Journalists Los Angeles chapter(CCNMA/NAHJ-LA). Prior to RLn, he freelanced for several publications and briefly was the premiere editor for Clout Magazine, a niche product of the Long Beach Press Telegram. He also was a mobile (multimedia) journalist for the Reno Gazette-Journal, a Gannett newspaper. He is fluent in English and Spanish and is broad in his awareness on different cultures.

Most Popular

JetBlue Says Bye To LGB

JetBlue leaves Long Beach Airport

Weissman Joins Long Beach Harbor Commission

Sharon L. Weissman, on Monday participated in her first Harbor Commission meeting.

LBUSD to Start School Year Online Only

Long Beach Unified School District will remain entirely online, at least through Oct. 5.


Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum preserves historic Millard Sheets mosaic mural for future generations and captures de-installation in mini-documentaryFarmers & Merchants Bank...

Recent Comments

Dave on Icarus Falls
Kevin on Icarus Falls
DAVID J LEE on Think: George Floyd
M Mackey on Think: George Floyd
Michael S. Motta on Think: George Floyd
Thomas "HOUSE" Houchens on Think: George Floyd
Eliath Mena on Think: George Floyd
Deidre Powell on Think: George Floyd
Marcia Ladymgirl on Think: George Floyd
Jennifer L on Think: George Floyd
Carlos Fisher on Think: George Floyd
Jose "cheMMa" Rodriguz on Think: George Floyd
Aniza Thomas on Think: George Floyd
David Seay on Think: George Floyd
Marc LJ on Think: George Floyd
andre edwards on Think: George Floyd
Terelle Jerricks on From Pop Culture to Cop Culture
Sharon Hislop on Think: George Floyd
Fetteroff on Think: George Floyd
Raul Acevedo Jr. on Think: George Floyd
Mel Grayson on Think: George Floyd
Terelle Jerricks on A Virtual World of Events 
Alice r. Knoop on Lung Health Tips for COVID-19
Melina Paris on Take me to Sardine
Joshua E Chambers on Take me to Sardine
Chad Dorchester on Take me to Sardine
Terelle Jerricks on Change Won’t Be Televised
Melina Paris on Take me to Sardine
Melina Paris on Take me to Sardine
Melina Paris on Take me to Sardine
Bob Kohler on About
Judie M Barker on About
Kim Kaufman on Staff
Kim Kaufman on Staff
Vivian Morales on From War to Lowrider
Robin Doyno on Staff
Publisher on About
Joe Stackhouse on Advertise
Marshariki Haylock on A Stabbing in San Pedro
CARRIE MENDOZA on A Stabbing in San Pedro
Martin Palmiere EMC(SW) ret. on Trouble on the Iowa
Martin A.Palmiere EMC(SW) USN(ret.) on Trouble on the Iowa
John H Winkler on Frequently Asked Questions
J. McVey on Staff
Malou Mariano on Tampering and Collusion
Terrell Williams on The New Gap Band Fills The Gap
Alton C . Thompson, Ph. D. on About
Harold Ericsson on Letters to the Editor
Hillbinkel on Trouble on the Iowa
Ian Gordon on KKJZ Leaves CSULB Campus
larry lebedin on KKJZ Leaves CSULB Campus
Joseph Bianco on Frequently Asked Questions
Deborah Steed on Zerby Family Finds Solace
Don Griffin on Rosenberg
Pete on About
Anne Marie Knudsen on Clem Pennington is the Whole Package
Terelle Jerricks on About
Lyn Jensen on Go Retro with Records
Steven R. Heldt on Fig Trees Are Like Democracies
Joanne Sims on Peacocks, Paseo, Politics
Dave Borst-Smith on Peacocks, Paseo, Politics
Charles Traupmann on The Buscaino Report:
james P. Allen on Across the Great Divide
Allyson Vought on Across the Great Divide
PBinLostAngeles on RL NEWS Roundups: June 14, 2016
davehall on Voter Guide
Chris formica Gringos Tacos on Food Truck Blues
Random Lengths News on Iowa Fever
Tinisha Rodrique on IMG_1761
polos fred perry on Less Than a Side Show
cheap soccer jersey on Less Than a Side Show
le mahjong gratuit on The Surrealness of Knives and Breast
Harry and the Gang on Sherlock Holmes at the LB Playhouse
neufert architect s data pdf on IMG_1761
sewing machine reviews on Annie at the Warner Grand