HISPANIC OR INDIGENOUS DAY?
To respect one community,
They know very well that Indigenous People’s Day began as a “counter-celebration,” a hate and resentment protest against Columbus and the European colonization of the Americas that came out of a 1977 U.N.-Geneva conference. It was a setup for confrontation. It was wrong to pick the same day then and it is still wrong now.
American politicians know very well that, for Hispanics, Oct. 12 is much more than “Columbus Day.” They know it is our "Dia de la Hispanidad.” They also know that for Italian-Americans, Columbus Day is about much more than one Italian navigator who sailed for Spain in the 16th century. It’s about pride in their identity.
Yet Biden issued a proclamation officially commemorating Indigenous Peoples' Day on the same day as Columbus Day. And then he issued another proclamation recognizing Columbus Day on the same day as Indigenous People’s Day. It was a two-faced, hypocritical maneuver to cover his back. But in effect, he has turned a resentful “counter celebration” into a federal holiday.
This is the guy who has been preaching that we must get along with each other. And yet now he is pitting Hispanics and Italians against U.S. Native Americans, to argue over one same official holiday.
After creating considerable confusion about whether the Biden Administration was replacing one holiday with the other, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tried to back-peddle. "Well, today is both Columbus Day, as of now ... as well as Indigenous Peoples' Day," Psaki told reporters. "I'm not aware of any discussion of ending that either, ending the prior federal holiday at this point, but I know that recognizing today as Indigenous Peoples' Day is something that the President felt strongly about personally, he's happy to be the first president to celebrate and to make it, the history of moving forward."
Of course, because it was a “first,” the media reported on one proclamation and buried the other, making it seem as if Indigenous People’s Day was totally replacing Columbus Day as a federal holiday, as has happened in many cities and states.
Instead, what we have from the federal government “moving forward,” is confusion and self-inflicted conflict. Biden’s two proclamations officially set up an unnecessary rivalry that has been brewing for years.
"The contributions that Indigenous peoples have made throughout history — in public service, entrepreneurship, scholarship, the arts, and countless other fields — are integral to our Nation, our culture, and our society," Biden wrote in his proclamation. "Today, we acknowledge the significant sacrifices made by Native peoples to this country — and recognize their many ongoing contributions to our Nation."
That’s terrific! Long-overdue recognition! But does it have to be on Columbus Day? Why would Biden and other politicians choose to ditch our Hispanic day and replace it with a day for indigenous people? Could it be because Hispanics are not demanding respect?
Could it be because they believe our Spanish ancestors are responsible for the genocide of Native Americans in what is now the United States? Don’t they know that, after the Spanish were long-gone, it was their own white ancestors who nearly exterminated U.S. Native Americans?
So, to make themselves feel good about what their ancestors did to Native Americans in this country, they try to shift the blame to Hispanics? Is that what’s happening here? There is history of this that dates back to the 16th century. It’s called “The Black Legend,” an anti-Hispanic propaganda campaign that refuses to die.
All over the country, by replacing the Hispanic and Italian festivities with indigenous celebrations, politicians are rewarding one group and insulting two others – all without accepting responsibility for the genocide conducted by white America.
In the White House, there is now one very powerful Native American in the Biden Cabinet, which is great. But what happened to the four Hispanics in the Biden cabinet? ™Se tragaron la lengua? (Did they swallow their tongues?) Did they argue for a separate holiday, so that both Hispanic and Indigenous people could have their own celebrations without competing with each other? Did any of them advise the president that many Hispanics would be offended? And what about the Italian-Americans in the Biden Administration? Did they ask the president not to disrespect their community?
Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that this country is rewriting its history, to uncover the many lessons that have been hidden by the British and New England historians who wrote it. But let’s not replace one distorted history with another!
Granted, there are those self-loathing Hispanics who reject their Spanish heritage and play right into the hands of those who seek to erase our Spanish ancestors from American history. But for most of us, who value our Spanish heritage, this day is precious.
This is the day when many of us take time to recognize the many Spanish explorers who trekked across this country for 100 years before the British arrived. This is the day we feel our Spanish blood running through our veins! It’s the day when we express pride in who we are!
How dare you try to take it from us?
Amazingly, today’s liberal media seems to have no problem distorting history to report on Native Americans at the expense of Hispanics. A CNN article describes the new holiday as “a holiday to recognize the native populations that were displaced and decimated after Christopher Columbus and other European explorers reached the continent.”
And yet most Native Americans in what is now the United States were “displaced and decimated” by white Americans as the country expanded to the west, more than 300 years after Columbus landed in the Caribbean (and never came to what is now the United States).
To make matters worse, Biden’s Columbus Day proclamation mentions Italian-Americans four times, but Hispanics were not even mentioned. Columbus discovered the New World for Spain, with three ships full of Spanish sailors, but the Biden Administration clearly associates Columbus only with Italians. Is this ignorance or neglect?
In his Indigenous People’s Day proclamation, Biden noted that, “Today, we also acknowledge the painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities.” But he makes no mention of the American settlers’ atrocities in the 19th century.
“It is a measure of our greatness as a nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past — that we face them honestly,” Biden wrote.
I wonder when he plans to start!
American politicians need to learn that to defend the rights of Native Americans, they don’t need to be disrespectful to Hispanics and/or Italians – especially when they don’t even consider the genocide complicity of their own white ancestors.
Of course, Columbus haters are having a great time. Apparently, they feel very courageous when they fight against Columbus statues. And yet their arguments are always bordering somewhere between ridiculous and ignorant.
Surely, Columbus was no angel. The men under his command were terribly abusive to the natives of the Caribbean. But the haters blame Columbus for the genocide and enslavement of indigenous and African people, even if most of it occurred long after he was dead. They hold him responsible for the European viruses that killed thousands of natives, as if this was something he could have controlled. They refuse to see that if it had not been Columbus that opened the gates to the New World, someone else would have brought the same illnesses and explorers. The question is: Would they have all these prejudices if a British navigator had discovered the New World?
They tell you that Columbus didn’t discover anything because there were people already living here, as if lands must be uninhabited to be discovered. They refuse to see that Spain discovered the New World – and its people! If Native Americans had crossed the Atlantic and discovered Europe – and its people – they would deserve credit and admiration too.
“We have systematically (but unconsciously) been taught that if it's not white, it's not right,” one of my Hispanic American history students wrote in our class discussion board recently. “If I discovered a bakery with great cookies, this would be new to me, and my new discovery. The bakery could have existed for years and be a very well-known place to the people in that community. But would that take away from it being my new discovery? Would that not be a new discovery for me and my "people" (friends) because it had existed for years, and many people knew about it?”
Some people even tell you that Columbus never discovered America because he never came to what is now the United States, as if they don’t know that America is the entire continent, and that all he needed to do to discover the continent was set foot in the Bahamas. And some even cling to the myth that Vikings came from Greenland to New England, because white folks had to be first!
Over the years, it has been mostly Italian-American community leaders who have stood up in defense of their beloved Colombo. Hispanics, conflicted by anti-Spanish propaganda, have stood on the sidelines. And that has led to the audacity of taking away one group’s holiday and replacing it with another’s.
Of course, Columbus deserves his day!
The time has come for Hispanics to speak out and demand respect for our Día de la Hispanidad. Perhaps our leaders could learn how to do this from Native Americans.