As a child, I always felt confused by the concept of Columbus Day. It didn’t feel logical. Why was I supposed to feel glad about something that happened over 500 years ago? Who were the supposed taínos that were so often talked about on Race Day? Why did some people speak about the day in a negative tone? Nothing really made sense.
As I understood colonialism, I saw Columbus Day, and its variant, Race Day—occasionally called Three Races Day—for what they truly are: a sham.
Columbus Day celebrates the invasion of culture, the genocide of indigenous people and lifestyle, and the indoctrination of a foreign religion, language, and culture. Generally speaking, Columbus Day celebrates the fact that a group of people thought it was fair to exploit and force into labor thousands of people and then take all of their resources for the benefit of their colonialist empire. Making it about the supposed discovery of the Americas tries to cover up the fact that they were never discovered by the Spaniards. The Spaniards stumbled upon the land and lifestyle of another culture and purposefully invaded it.
The concept of Three Races Day is even more confusing and upsetting. The actual genetic makeup of indigenous people is scarce among Puerto Ricans nowadays. That is to say, our colonization was not just cultural, it was also biological, paired with genocide as a result of invasive illnesses that many taínos were infected with. I haven’t even mentioned the rape, physical abuse, and racism that both taínos and African slaves endured. Those three races co-existed due to the imperialistic tendencies of the colonizers, not by free will.
Many cities in the US and many Latin American countries have abandoned Columbus Day/ Race Day as the name to assign for this celebration and have instead decided to don more appropriate and respectful names. For example, many cities have decided to dedicate the day to Indigenous People or to Native Americans. On the other hand, some Latin American countries have chosen ‘’Cultural Diversity Day’’ as a more appropriate title, although it fails to directly recognize the violent nature of colonization. Venezuela renamed their celebration to ‘’Day of Indigenous Resistance,’’ in honor of the indigenous peoples’ strength and bravery against the colonizers who tried to eliminate their culture.
Hopefully, people will stop glorifying historical events that, in hindsight, contributed to the oppression and marginalization of many. On that note, I hope that people realize when specific institutions push for the celebration of these days to avoid taking a combative or ”violent” stance, for tradition’s sake.
My advice? Don’t fall for it. No culture deserves to be colonized.