Dia de la Raza – Columbus Day in Colombia
It’s 7:30 am on Monday, October 16, 2017, in Medellin. The streets are empty, most businesses are closed, it’s like a ghost town. I walk over to the corner store in my neighborhood, which is surprisingly open, and I ask (as if I didn’t know) why is everything so empty. The lady at the store tells me with a smile that it’s a holiday today.
I proceed to ask her, “Oh really? What holiday is it?”
After almost 7 years in Colombia, I know what her answer is going to be: “I don’t know.”
As she proves me right I grab a bottled water, smile and tell her…that it’s el dia de la raza.
She blushes, takes my money and I’m off to my office for a full day of work.
Dia de la Raza – Is not Columbus Day in Colombia
October 16 is Dia de la Raza (Day of the Race) in Colombia and it is a national holiday. This means that it’s a three-day-weekend.
Some think that this day commemorates Christopher Columbus’ stumbling upon America and claiming to have discovered a land that had never been seen by Europeans before.
In reality it’s a day to memorialize the consequent mixture of European (chiefly Spanish and Portuguese) and Indigenous races to spawn a new race, Latino.
Dia de la Raza History
Dia de la Raza was created in 1913 by ex-prime minister of Spain, Faustino Rodríguez-San Pedro, who was the president of the Unión Ibero-Americana. (Source: Filosofia)
Rodriguez’s intention was to create a holiday that would unite Spain and Iberoamérica (countries that were once ruled by Spain and Portugal which consist of many countries in Central and South America).
“In 1492, the natives discovered they were Indians, discovered they lived in America, discovered they were naked, discovered that Sin existed, discovered they owed allegiance to a king and queen from another world and a God from another sky, and that this God had invented guilt and clothes, and had sent to be burnt alive those who worshiped the Sun the Moon the Earth and the Rain that bathes it.” ~ Eduardo Galeano
In Colombia the general population, like that of the United States, has many misconceptions about Christopher Columbus and the “discovery” of America. Unlike North America, barring some places like Berkeley, California, Seattle, Washington, and the states of Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and South Dakota, in Central and South America the holiday tries to debase the torture and eradication of most indigenous people by calling it “the day of the race.” FYI: Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and South Dakota no longer celebrate Columbus day, they celebrate “Indigenous People’s Day.”
In my opinion celebrating Columbus has its faults:
First of all Christopher Columbus did not discover America, as a matter of fact, Columbus never set foot on American soil. He found Bahamas and later Hispaniola, present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Furthermore, he was not the first European to set foot in the “New World”. Viking explorer Leif Eriksson found America 500 years before Columbus’ birth (For those of you unfamiliar with this here is a good article: History). Legend also has it that Irish Monk, Saint Brendan, may have reached America some 1,000 years before Columbus.
America was already populated and thriving before Columbus’ arrival. Most educated people will know that the people who lived here were intricate, rich, and productive.
There’s no doubt that Columbus was a brave man. It takes a very fearless person to sail across the ocean for two months. He was also very ambitious which is a great quality to have.
Despite a couple of virtues, Columbus had major personality setbacks. Columbus was pompous and single-minded. For example, his calculations of the earth’s circumference were short, he believed that most of the earth was covered by dry land, and that Japan was some 1,500 miles from the coast of China. Columbus was so arrogant and stubborn that he wanted to prove everyone wrong.
Columbus never recognized his discovery of America. Columbus was trying to find a new spice rout to the East Indies or China, but Columbus never did, when he landed on Caribbean land in 1492 he thought he was in Asia. His view of the earth was so narrow and he was so hard-headed that he never fessed up to not landing in Asia.
In my opinion Christopher Columbus or in Spanish Cristóbal Colón (born in Italy as Cristoforo Colombo), the Spanish Crown and the Catholic Church of that era are the definition of evil and here is why.
Before setting sail the Spanish Crown or Columbus himself announced a reward of 10,000 maravedis or about $540 (a sailor’s yearly salary) to the first sailor to spot land. On October 12, 1492, Rodrigo de Triana shouted “¡Tierra! ¡Tierra!” at 2:00 A.M. Columbus wrote in his journal that he thought to have seen a dim light the previous day, thus negating de Triana the reward, the Spanish Crown also negated the reward. What a jerks!
No regard for human life
When Columbus and his fleet arrived they encountered the Arawaks, Tainos and Lucayans—all friendly, according to Columbus’ writings. Soon after arriving, Columbus wrecked the Santa Maria and the Arawaks worked for hours to save the crew and cargo.
At the sight of the natives’ friendliness, Columbus seized control of the land in the name of Spain. He also took some of the locals captive. In his journal he wrote:
“As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.”
Columbus Painted a Horrible Picture of Peaceful Natives
When Columbus first saw the Native Arawaks that came to greet him and his crew he spoke with a peaceful and admiring tone.
“They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things… They willingly traded everything they owned… They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
After a few months in the Caribbean, on January 13, 1493 two Natives were murdered during trading. Columbus, who had otherwise described the Natives as gentle people wrote:
“(they are) evil and I believe they are from the island of Caribe, and that they eat men.” He also described them as “savage cannibals, with dog-like noses that drink the blood of their victims.”
Murderers and Rapists
On his first trip Columbus left 39 men behind. The 39 men helped themselves to the local women, these men were all dead when Columbus returned.
Columbus returned with 1,200 soldiers. Raping, pillaging and murder were rampant and tolerated by Columbus. In a written account by a reported close friend of Columbus bares witness to the evil.
“While I was in the boat I captured a very beautiful Carib woman, whom the said Lord Admiral (Columbus) gave to me, and with whom, having taken her into my cabin, she being naked – as was their custom, I conceived desire to take pleasure. I was filled with my desire to take my pleasure with her and attepmpted to satisfy my desire. She was unwilling, and so treated me with her nails that I wished I had never begun. But – to cut a long story short – I then took a rope and whipped her soundly. and she let forth such incredible screams that you would not have believed your ears. Eventually we came to such terms, that I assure you that you would have thought that she had been brought up in a school for whores.”
Slave Master, Slave Driver, Murderer
Columbus had a big promise of gold to fulfill to the Spanish Crown and investors, hence his enslavement of natives to work in goldmines until exhaustion. Those who opposed were beheaded or had their ears cut off.
In the provinces of Cicao anyone over the age of 14 had to come up with at least a thimble of gold dust every three months and were given copper necklaces as proof of their compliance. Those who did not fulfill their obligation had their hands cut off, which were tied around their necks while they bled to death—some 10,000 died handless (source: Say NO to Columbus Statue in Puerto Rico).
Columbus introduced encomienda to America. Encomienda was a legal system that was used by the Spanish Crown to enslave natives (source: Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion).
In two years’ time, approximately 250,000 native Haitians were dead. Many deaths were the result of mass suicides or intentional poisonings or mothers killing their babies to avoid persecution.
According to Columbus, in a few years before his death,
“Gold is the most precious of all commodities; gold constitutes treasure, and he who possesses it has all he needs in the world, as also the means of rescuing souls from purgatory, and restoring them to the enjoyment of paradise.”
Columbus was a Pedophile Sex Trafficker
There are reported accounts in which Christopher Columbus sold or gave his friends native females as sex slaves, some as young as 9. Christopher Columbus started the trans-Atlantic teenage female sex trade. He captured infant native girls in the “Americas” and took them to Europe where they would be sold into prostitution (source: El Conquistador El Infierno En Los Lagos).
Columbus’ Cruelty and Genocide
One of Columbus’ men, Bartolome De Las Casas, was so mortified by Columbus’ brutal atrocities against the native peoples, that he quit working for Columbus and became a Catholic priest. He described how the Spaniards under Columbus’ command cut off the legs of children who ran from them, to test the sharpness of their blades. According to De Las Casas, the men made bets as to who, with one sweep of his sword, could cut a person in half. He says that Columbus’ men poured people full of boiling soap. In a single day, De Las Casas was an eye witness as the Spanish soldiers dismembered, beheaded, or raped 3000 native people. “Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel,” De Las Casas wrote. “My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write.”
De Las Casas spent the rest of his life trying to protect the helpless native people. But after a while, there were no more natives to protect. Experts generally agree that before 1492, the population on the island of Hispaniola probably numbered above 3 million. Within 20 years of Spanish arrival, it was reduced to only 60,000. Within 50 years, not a single original native inhabitant could be found. Source: Huffington Post
In the early years of Columbus’ conquests there were butcher shops throughout the Caribbean where natives were sold as dog food. There was also a practice known as the montería infernal, the infernal chase, or manhunt, in which natives were hunted by war-dogs. These dogs—who also wore armor and had been fed human flesh, were a fierce match for the Indians. Live babies were also fed to these war dogs as sport, sometimes in front of horrified parents (source: Indian Country).
In John Toland’s book Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography, he comments on the Furor’s admiration of the American Genocide:
“Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the Wild West; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination — by starvation and uneven combat — of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.
“He was very interested in the way the Indian population had rapidly declined due to epidemics and starvation when the United States government forced them to live on the reservations. He thought the American government’s forced migrations of the Indians over great distances to barren reservation land was a deliberate policy of extermination. Just how much Hitler took from the American example of the destruction of the Indian nations is hard to say; however, frightening parallels can be drawn. For some time Hitler considered deporting the Jews to a large ‘reservation’ in the Lubin area where their numbers would be reduced through starvation and disease.”
I found this great book titled Indians are Us (Common Courage Press, 1994) by Ward Churchill.
To be fair, Columbus was never a head of state. Comparisons of
him to Nazi SS leader Heinrich Himmler, rather than Hitler, are
therefore more accurate and appropriate. It is time to delve into the
substance of the defendants’ assertion that Columbus and Himmler, Nazi
Lebensraumpolitik (conquest of “living space” in eastern Europe) and
the “settlement of the New World” bear more than casual
resemblance to one another. This has nothing to do with the Columbian
“discovery,” not that this in itself is completely
irrelevant. Columbus did not sally forth upon the Atlantic for reasons
of “neutral science” or altruism. He went, as his own diaries,
reports, and letters make clear, fully expecting to encounter wealth
belonging to others. It was his stated purpose to seize this wealth,
by whatever means necessary and available, in order to enrich both his
sponsors and himself.
The Spanish Murdered For Gold in Medellin
Even though most Paisas still resemble their ancestors (short, stubby, with big heads) many do not know why Medellin is called Medellin let alone who founded it and who killed off all their indigenous ancestors. As a matter of fact there’s a lot of racism and bigotry against indigenous people in Medellin still.
49 years after Christopher Colombus landed in the Bahamas (1541) it was Jerónimo Luis Tejelo (lieutenant to conquistador Jorge Robledo) and his men who where the first Europeans to set eyes on the lush valley of Aburra.
The Spanish were seeking gold, and heard legends of gold filled caves in Antioquia, therefore, when the Valley of Aburra was found the Spanish fought to conquer. Among the indigenous people that lived in the valley were the nutabaes, catíos, quimbayas and chamíes.
The biggest legend of of them all is el Cacique Nutibara. He was basically the guy that ran the whole valley. He battled the Spanish (and their black slaves) until his wife and child were sequestered by Juan Vadillo’s men. Legend has it that Vadillo told Casique Nutibara to bring two baskets full of gold and he’d free his wife and child. Nutibara was unable to meet this requirement and upon capture he was burned alive.
Latinos = children born of rape
The people that “conquered” North America did such a great job of exterminating the natives and not mixing races that the world’s most evil man, Hitler, praised and took notes. In Central and South America the Spanish and Portuguese were careless in that regard, thus creating Hispanics and/or Latinos.
In conclusion, El Dia de la Raza is more important than most Colombians know. This day commemorates the ruthless and violent way in which our current race came about. Even though Christopher Columbus and the Spanish Crown/Catholics were the epitome of evil I have to accept that I’m part of that evil and will continue to be until I educate myself enough to know the truth.
The only thing I can be grateful for is my height. Thanks to the Spanish blood in my family I am 1.92 m tall, which has been an advantage in basketball (my love).
Both El Dia de la Raza (Colombus Day) and Thanksgiving remind me of how fucked up our history is. Nothing can change the past, but if I study it then maybe I can define my future in a more positive way.
Note: A really great article to read: What to tell your kids about Christopher Columbus
About the writer – Andrew Macia
Hello, my name is Andrew Macia and I am the founder of the Medellin Buzz. I am an advanced level English teacher here in Medellin, and I also have a website development, and marketing company which I run from home.
My idea with the Medellin Buzz is to push those who are learning English and to integrate native speakers with non-native speakers.
I love living in Medellin and I love Colombia. I want to give back to the community and this is the best way I know how. Let’s practice English and Spanish and have a great time!
About the Medellin Buzz
The Medellin Buzz is a practice resource for English as a Foreign Language students in Medellin, Colombia. The Medellin Buzz is a great way to practice English because it is written in a way that is easy to understand. If you have questions feel free to write them in the comments below or contact me.