Laura X Moya Guerrero
Happy Columbus day!!!
Sike naw y’all. Lets get real. But before we get real, let’s go back to elementary school days. When you were trading Pokémon cards and your mom packed school lunches with huevos and frijoles. Ugh the smell…but it was SO good. Okay that was my experience. But— do you all remember singing this song? Or having to memorize the couplet from below?
In our educational system we are indoctrinated to memorize
In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
The rhyming and enforcement to learn the couplet is a mirror to what the state values. We owe the origins of our presence to one man that was brave enough to sail across the Atlantic Ocean: Christopher Columbus. The history of the origins of the America’s is written to glorify Christopher Columbus’s expedition, but it’s not written in a way that faces recognition of what would lead to become one of the most massive killings. The genocide of indigenous groups through the American hemisphere. We become indoctrinated to honor someone who is responsible for the genocide and colonization of our ancestors. After all, his expedition sparked the discoveries by John Cabolt and Hernán Cortés. That’s wild! That’s some 1984 shit. Honoring someone who killed part your ancestry.
But even if you don’t believe indigenous groups were your ancestors, they aren’t, or that “we are here already so why complain?”- What’s important is to take note of the effects the song has in our society today, and what it represents. The song honors a system of colonization; we have the right to explore and conquer other lands. There is another Columbus song that begins by romanticizing the day of Columbus’s adventure, “Day after day they looked for land;They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.” The narrative arc of the song is of a man, the hero, who day after day, and night after night, struggles to find land. He finally finds the Bahamas and becomes the hero of the story. This could perhaps provide some insight to the neo-imperialism behavior that is practiced and accepted today through military and economic policies. It’s our right to expand politically and economically.
But back to this crazy ass song.
“ ‘Indians! Indians’ Columbus cried;”
They weren’t even Indians! (In my Damian voice from Mean Girls)
Columbus thought he made it to the East Indies, what we know as Indonesia, so he named them Indians. Because the native Lucayans of Guanahani didn’t have their own name.
Christopher Columbus wasn’t even the first person to reach the Americas! (In my Damien voice from Mean Girls)
It always surprises me when people speak of the young 200-year history of the United States. There is a vast amount of history prior to the colonization. And it’s fucking beautiful (Although I admit to know very little and wish I knew more.) What I can share with you all is that the Iroquois influenced Benjamin Franklin and the Founding fathers with their checks and balances system and system of colonies. The pillars to our government were influenced by the Iroquois but we aren’t even taught that in school. Wtf?! Why?
In this way, history is rewritten by the United States, they fail to omit how their culture is made up from the very same people they murdered and ostracized.
History is selectively written and shared to others by the winning group. But for a society to collectively move forward we have to discuss our own flaws. By failing to omit the damage, the United States rewrites history to their benefit and cripples their communities, us, from a collective education to progressively move forward.
And it’s not only the United States, but also our Latin American countries that take part in this selective and damaging history rewritten.
On my search for the Christopher Columbus song, I found some wild shit.
This is being taught in the schools of the countries that were colonized. Come on, mi gente.
What if instead of the 1492 song/couplet, we learn history in our elementary schools from songs that pass oral histories? From the indigenous tribes? Or what if we learned about the history in the United States for example, from Los Tigres Del Norte?
Crazy I know, but stay with me. In case you haven’t heard of Los Tigres Del Norte, they are one of the most well known Latin American bands that play corridos music. Corridos, are a Mexican music genre that primarily uses the accordion, hints a political event or has some political context, and are created, performed, and for, the working class people. The group is made up of the Hernandez brothers who migrated to the United States in 1968. They are part of the marginalized migrant community they write and share songs about. They have a song called, “Somos Mas Americanos” (We are More American) –hmm we could ask what does being more American even mean- in the mean time take listen and look at their lyrics!
Ya me gritaron mil veces que me regrese
A mi tierra por que aqui no quepo yo,
Quiero recordarle al gringo yo no
Cruce la frontera la frontera me cruzo.
America nacio libre el hombre la dividio
Ellos pintaron la raya para que yo la
Brincara y me llaman invasor.
Es un error bien marcado nos quitaron
Ocho estados quien es aqui el invasor
They yelled at me a thousand times to go back
To my homeland, because there is no room for me here
I want to remind the gringo (anglo from United States)
That I didn’t cross the border, but the border crossed me.
America was born free and men divided it
They painted a line for me to jump
And now they call me the invader
It’s an error very well imprinted that they took from us
Eight states. Now who is the invader?
Wyoming, California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado.
I had to Google the eight states because I didn’t even know. But what they are referring to is the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, where Mexico was forced to relinquish half of its territory during the Mexican-American war. What would it be like to learn our history in first grade from Los Tigres del Norte? Can it be a tool for educators? Could it change the way we look at Mexican migrant workers? Immigrants? or could it shape the way we look at others from an early age? Is the United States even ready for that? I’d like to think so.
So as people continue education through college or self-education, our generation is learning about the atrocities Christopher Columbus committed. Most people advocate to get rid of the holiday. Should we?
I don’t think so.
To a degree. Instead, I think the idea of the holiday needs a shift. Can we have a day, a month, or even a year to observe where/when we failed in humanity? Why do we have holidays that only celebrate ‘goodness’ or heroic values? Let’s stop putting people on pedestals and be critical of how we can collectively learn from each other. Because we can learn just as much, if not more from our mistakes.
The opinions expressed in this blog post belong to the author alone and do not necessarily represent the views of the DREAM Team at NYU as an organization.