Opinion: Reconsidering Columbus Day celebrations

Photo courtesy of Andrew Moore// Christopher Columbus statue in Ciutat Vella, Barcelona points west.

Recently, there has been a lot of controversy about whether or not schools, and communities in general, should celebrate Columbus Day. Columbus Day was declared a federal holiday in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The celebration’s original intent was to not only acknowledge Christopher Columbus, but to win Roosevelt votes in the Italian American demographic.

As an elementary student, I used to draw pictures of Columbus and his voyage across the Pacific as part of classroom activities. It was a very popular and celebrated holiday. Even now, we still have school off for it every year. However, outside of school I have never done a single thing to commemorate Christopher Columbus or the holiday. As students grow older, emphasis on Columbus Day celebrations begins to trail off. Oftentimes students can hear teachers complain during class about missing school time for a holiday that most people don’t value or acknowledge regularly.

Many of the students even disagree with celebrating this holiday. Nick Circelli thinks that Columbus Day focuses too much on Columbus being the founder of America, which he says is also untrue.

“Christopher Columbus wrongfully murdered many native Americans and we shouldn’t celebrate a man of this nature. Also, it is not true that he found America, so really there is no need to celebrate him,” senior Nick Circelli said.

I remember learning the catch phrase, “in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. As elementary students we were taught that he founded America, yet this has been proven to be wrong because there have been many other groups that sailed to America first. In addition, there were natives living in the area long before any Westerners had arrived. When Christopher Columbus came to America, he and his people brought several different diseases that the indigenous people had never been exposed to, resulting in extensive Native American deaths.

Luis Estrada enjoys having the day off for Columbus Day, but feels that we wrongfully celebrate the holiday.

“We shouldn’t celebrate Columbus Day because Christopher Columbus didn’t discover America and was also responsible for widespread genocide,” senior Luis Estrada said.

In fact, Bridgeport Public Schools were recently in the news for their decision to rename Columbus Day. They have decided to call it Indigenous Peoples Day, and instead of celebrating Columbus, they want to focus their attention towards the Native Americans who were living here first. As more people and school districts are beginning to shy away from the whole idea that Christopher Columbus was some kind of hero, I wonder whether the Stamford School Districts will do the same.

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