Friday marked the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ chance landing in the Americas. To mark the occasion, Columbus Day has traditionally been celebrated throughout the hemisphere, yet these days in Latin America it is more in protest than in recognition.
We might have a few places that have chosen to change the holiday to reflect what Columbus meant to the native people—in Berkeley it’s officially Indigenous People’s Day, in South Dakota it’s Native American Day, and in Hawaii it isn’t even a holiday—but for the most part the legend of Columbus holds strong and there have been few attempts, in our textbooks or statehouses, to change the day’s intention.
In Latin America, though, it’s national leaders who are working to readjust the public’s view of Columbus and his impact on the Americas. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez renamed Columbus Day and Avenue Columbus to Indigenous Resistance Day and Avenue Indigenous Resistance. Chavez has made Venezuela’s 35 different tribes visible, literally, to the urban public by broadcasting television stations from their regions. Bolivia’s Evo Morales marked the anniversary by attending a conference of indigenous people from across Latin America in Chapare, Bolivia.
Last week city officials in Caracas confirmed that a statue of Columbus that was toppled in a square three years ago will not be restored. That statue could very well have been that of any dictator, torn down by the masses as they take to the streets as a new voice begins to emerge.