Today at school, we celebrated yet another anniversary of the beginning to what would lead to one of the bloodiest, cruelest, and senseless genocides known in our history: ‘The discovery of America’.
When I was in primary school, this day was known to us as just that, ‘the day America was discovered’. We practised for months to put up a little performance for the whole school, when the moment usually portrayed was the moment when ‘Colon and the indigenes first met’. Sounds like the start of a love-at-first-sight movie, huh?; that is, if we count abuse, rape, mass murder of their children, and constant torture as part of a nice lovely relationship.
When I entered, say, fourth grade, teachers at school were pleased to announce how the commemorative day had been renamed to ‘Day of the Race‘. Now, I know this might sound a little wrong for some of you born-english speakers, but race isn’t such a strong word in our language as it is in yours -which does not by any means disregard the existent and beating racism even the latino community has.
So, now our little performances changed slightly; instead of portraying the ‘conquerors’ and ‘discoverers’ as awesome heroes, we were also starting to see the other side of this history -well, kinda. But it was still kind of an improvement. Indians weren’t just some dumb and ignorant bland characters anymore: we got to see a little of them.
But real change to the way we were used to see this day really happened when it was renamed ‘The Day of Clash of Cultures”. Now, that’s something. Now, instead of just remembering just that sole moment of contact, we got to see this cultures with more depth, and I actually got the chance to study about the people before Colon on this land for the first time -utterly boring at that time, but I really appreciate having had that opportunity now-a-days.
People still kind of thought it was a little unrespectful, or odd, so a few years ago this day got a new identity: ‘Day of Cultural Diversity’.
We now thoroughly study the past of this land, and try to come to terms with the fact that, hey, europeans weren’t the first ones to ever live here, which was kind of jerky from our part.
Although I do think this went through some improvements, I think we will never be able to say we’ve tackled this problem from the right angle until we’ve come to terms with another huge fact: what happened here was a TRAGEDY.
To say it in numbers, when Spain first got here, there were about 80 million aborigines living in all America. By the time of the next count, about a century later, we were left with 3 million. Three fucking million. From eighty. So about 77 million people died during that time, and I think we can all agree it wasn’t because of ‘unfortunate situations’, or ‘many many wars’ -though wars did take their nice number out of it.
Oh no, that’s not even the worst part. What really got these people dying were things like slavery, forced work in very unhealthy situations, torturous lifes, sicknesses from the europeans, alcohol… All these people had to die and go through all that in order for the Kingdoms of Spain, Portugal, France, Holland, and England to prosper.
From the moment the new people set foot on the new land, they automatically assumed that was just there for them to take as much advantage of it as they could. EVERYTHING there was served for them, and therefore belonged to them. The land, the nature, and yes, even the people in it -men and women they didn’t even consider human at first.
They raped this land and stripped it away from its dignity and beauty for the sake of ‘progress’ and ‘civilization’ -really, if you just stopped to read about this amazing cultures for a second, then you’d even wonder WHO the real civilised person was, which is what I do.
I don’t know about you, people, but I have nothing to celebrate on this day. I do a lot of reflexing, remembering, and reading, to try to honour these past cultures -something which I never truly accomplish. It’s up to everyone to interpretate this date however they want. But, do bear in mind, I’ll feel sick every time I see someone acting as Colon the hero.
Thanks for reading.