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A COURSE CORRECTION ON COLUMBUS

Local News 06 Mar, 2020 Follow News

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus ships

There’s an enduring calypso that puts the legacy of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in sharp context.

‘Columbus Lied’, sang the late Tobago-born calypso maestro Shadow.

There’s also an equally enduring roots reggae classic, of the genre known as conscious reggae, which unapologetically declares, “Christopher Columbus was a damn, blasted liar.”

Jamaican reggae icon Burning Spear is responsible for that unflattering assessment of the Italian-born explorer who laid claims to lands he’d ‘discovered’ for the Spanish throne.

Those songs from the 70s and early 80s still resonate for their social awakening and challenges to hitherto accepted historical accounts.

They also provided a soundtrack for formal and informal national debate and scrutinising academic challenges of material which had formed the foundation for teaching Caribbean history.

Christopher Columbus’ chance encounter and subsequent subjugation of native peoples he quite literally stumbled upon set off a chain reaction of events that resulted in the Caribbean as it’s known today.

Those native peoples, whom Columbus erroneously labelled ‘Indians’ - a label which stuck as have the names of places he tagged on - didn’t survive the way the misnomers have.

Many of those Columbian name-tags largely endure, except in a few instances, Guyana comes to mind.

History cannot be erased but the documentation of events recorded as history for posterity can be reviewed, revisited, edited, and the record corrected.

And there are signs of that happening; a course alteration that recognises Christopher Columbus for his daring as an explorer, but putting into its correct perspective his place in the annals of global and in particular Caribbean history.

Celebrating Columbus continues to divide opinion.

Columbus Day October 12th, is a federal holiday in the United States.

But what started as a veneration of the explorer is increasingly being questioned and clouded in controversy.

One oft-overlooked fact is that Christopher Columbus never set foot on what's known as the United States of America.

The closest he got was in traversing part of the coastline of Central America on his fourth voyage.

As observation of Columbus' arrival in ‘the Americas’ is shifting more towards a recognition of the native peoples, his tainted legacy has become increasingly off-putting with many states choosing to dedicate the day in honour of the native peoples.

In Belize for example, the original Columbus Day holiday is now observed as Pan-American Day a celebration of the migration of indigenous cultural groups from the Yucatan into Belize.

In the Dominican Republic where Columbus had set up his Caribbean base, the capital Santo Domingo is adorned with an unmissable statue of the explorer.

Claims by the Dominic Republic that Columbus is buried in the country has been rejected by Spain which says the explorers remains are interred in Seville.

October 12th is not marked as a holiday in the Dominican Republic.

And while the date is marked in the Bahamas, where Columbus made landfall thinking that he had reached the East Indies, it's for a completely different reason.

October 12th is Bahamas National Heroes' Day. Established in 2013, it replaces Discovery Day also then known as Columbus Day.

The Columbus course-correction continues.


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