What is Columbus Day?
Controversy Over Columbus Day
By Cara J. Stevens
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Columbus: Explorer or Exploiter?
Many parents remember their lessons about Columbus from grade school. The teachers told us: “In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered America.” That is, of course politically and technically incorrect, as native cultures had already been thriving for centuries by the time Columbus's three ships arrived from Europe. A more accurate way of explaining it to children would be to say that "In 1492, Christopher Columbus had his first encounter with the Americas."
It would even be wrong to say that he was the first European to discover America, as Leif Eriksson and others had been there before him as well. The arrival of the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, marked the beginning of oppression and cruelty to the native people. Because of this, Columbus Day is also met with great protest throughout the Americas. Those opposing the day take the opportunity to reveal the unpleasant treatment that some European settlers subjected upon the indigenous people, including mass religious conversions and genocide.
For many in the United States, the celebration been refocused as a celebration of Italian American culture, particularly in areas with a high concentration of people with Italian lineage. This transition officially began in New York in 1866 and San Francisco in 1869, and has spread to Boston and other large cities. This has resulted in Italian-American themed celebrations, parades, and events.