Every year, people throughout the Americas celebrate the time when the Old World met the New World, and Christopher Columbus has the historical embodiment of this time period despite the ongoing controversy that surrounds his legacy. Columbus was instrumental in opening up the Americas to European influence despite thinking that he has landed in Asia. Terms like “American Indian” and the “West Indies” are modern reminders of his misbelief.
However, Columbus’ legacy is stained because of how he treated the indigenous peoples that he encountered; his heart was set on making money, and the native people were viewed as tools that he could use to achieve his dreams of wealth and power. This has led to many Hispanic communities adopting Dia de la Raza (“Day of the Race”) as an alternate celebration in order to commemorate the plurality and unique culture that developed as an outgrowth of the Age of Discovery.
The spirit of the holiday is not meant to be divisive but to be celebratory of the history of how the New World was opened up to become the world’s melting pot. We are all free and united today because of the courage of the many explorers that set out to settle in the Americas. This is not about one man or one race; this is about how we, the free people of the Americas, were given the opportunity to build up our own societies. Let us, at least for one day a year, come together as one people in remembrance of how we got where we are today.