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Columbus Day
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Posted by:Oct 6th 2003, 11:54:07 am
Fig Tree News TeamPOINT-COUNTERPOINT from Wendall Jones, publisher of the Bahama Journal [online at]

Squandering Our Heritage

Wendall K. Jones
October 2003

This past week The National Cultural Development Commission recommended something to Prime Minister Perry Christie which raised the eyebrows of many Bahamians. Influenced by people with various agendas and without reference or appreciation for what is historically correct, one of the recommendations made some members of the Commission seem hypocritical.

A letter signed by the Chairman of the Commission stated: " The majority of your Commission recommends that there be a public holiday celebrating National Heroes Day on the 2nd Monday in October, replacing the October 12th Public Holiday which we now celebrate as Discovery Day."

This Commission apparently has convinced itself that after listening to the misguided and those who are historical revisionists, the celebration of Discovery Day is not in the best interest of the Bahamas. Ironically, many members of the Commission played important roles in the Quincentennial celebrations of the Discovery of the Bahamas in October 1992.

It was no less a person than the Father of the Nation, Sir Lynden Pindling who wrote at that time "the Quincentennial of Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World is an exciting and very special anniversary commemorating the dramatic encounter of two worlds which colours the Bahamian legacy and ties us to Western Europe."

History books all over the world record that in 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered the New World . While every school child now knows that Columbus did not 'discover' America, Columbus' achievement lies in the fact that his planned voyage was successful and that he was able over a decade to come and go, between Europe and the Caribbean, as if he was traveling up and down the Mediterranean. After ten weeks his expedition sighted The Bahamas on October 12, 1492. The island, called by the native inhabitants Guanahani, was taken possession of by Columbus in the name of the King and Queen of Spain and christened San Salvador. From The Bahamas Columbus proceeded to Cuba and Hispaniola before returning to Spain. On subsequent voyages he discovered most of the Caribbean archipelago and the northern coast of South America.

There are those in the Bahamas today who wish to cast Columbus as all evil. They would prefer not to celebrate a "Columbus Day", but any government in the Bahamas would be foolish to abolish the celebration of "Discovery Day" as the unification of the new world.

In a comprehensive history of the Caribbean called "From Columbus to Castro", Eric Williams a former Prime Minister of Trinidad said, "standing on the very threshold of the modern age of commerce and imperialism, Columbus' vision was focused on the past. He was the last of the medieval crusaders. The chief significance of the New World, in his eyes, was the opportunity it afforded of bringing multitudes into the Catholic faith. On his return from his first voyage, he ended his narrative of his exploits to the Sovereigns with the assurance that "God has reserved for the Spanish Monarchs, not only all the treasures of the New World, but a still greater treasure of inestimable value, in the infinite number of souls destined to be brought over into the bosom of the Christian church!"

The humble Genoese mariner, son of an obscure woolen weaver, became by the discovery of the New World, Admiral Don Christopher Columbus, a grandee of Spain. On his return from his memorable voyage, the King and Queen received him with a splendor befitting his exploits. Seated on the throne, surrounded by courtiers, knights and an immense throng, they held out their hands for him to kiss, refused to allow him to kneel, and desired him to be seated in their presence, the highest honour to which a grandee could aspire.

The Spaniards hatred of Columbus as a foreigner, their jealousy of his perquisites, quarrels among his own followers, and opposition to his methods of rule combined to bring about his downfall. He died at Valladolid on May 20, 1506, in total obscurity. Columbus' name was not commemorated in the world he had discovered until the early nineteenth century, when the independent republic of Colombia in South America was named after him.

Today in the Bahamas, we are conflicting our national heroes and even comparing them with Columbus. However, there is nothing we can now do to deny the fact that the Bahamas is the birthplace of the New World. A new trade route opened to the New World, as Columbus introduced the abundance of the New World to 15th century Europeans who were extricating themselves from the Dark Ages which followed the fall of Rome. Rather than ignoring it or downplaying it, a sensible government would ignore the recommendation of the Commission of replacing October 12th as Discovery Day, but promote it throughout the world. Bahamians have a rich heritage and must guard it and not squander it.
Posted by:Oct 6th 2003, 11:49:26 am
Fig Tree News TeamThis week's Bahama Journal:

October 12 should always be remembered as a day of historical importance but it should never be celebrated again as Discovery Day, according to the Chairman of the National Heroes Committee, Father Sebastian Campbell.

The Anglican priest made the remarks at the 2003 National Heroes Day Service in Rawson Square on Thursday as he read the Proclamation by Prime Minister Perry Christie approving the celebration of the week of October 7-13 as National Heroes Week.

The National Heroes Committee is also encouraging all Bahamians to participate in activities within their various communities during October and to observe Monday October 13 to honour those individuals who have earned the title of national heroes.

"Never again should we celebrate mass genocide, the obliteration of an entire race of people - the Arawak Indians," he remarked. "Never again should we be guilty of misleading our children on the issue of discovery. These islands were not discovered on October 12, 1492."

Father Campbell said that the population of The Bahamas at that time was over 80,000.

He added that African seafarers had already sailed Bahamian waters and established that the world was not flat "hundreds of years before 1492."

Prime Minister Christie said that although the move towards National Heroes Day has been a long time coming, the move in this direction was the right one.

"Our history must be written in such a way that all of us must be able to understand its true meaning and to use its true meaning for the enhancement of our own view as to who we are," Mr. Christie said.

Father Campbell said he appreciated the Prime Minister's move towards developing legislation regarding national heroes and for suggesting that land in the Clifton Cay area be developed into a National Heroes Park.

The National Heroes Committee's campaign is geared towards having a holiday to celebrate national heroes, replacing the British Honours system with a Bahamian Honours system, the establishment of a national heroes park, the development of a system to identify and award heroes, having the images of reputable Bahamians on local currency and teaching Afro-Bahamian history in schools.

This year's special awardees are George Mackey; the late Dr. Jackson Burnside; the late Hilda Bowen; Canon David John Pugh; Lillian Coakley; John "Chippie" Chipman; Mildred Sawyer; Richard Dean; Mamie Astwood; the Region Bells; Maureen Duvalier; Father George Wolf; Leonard "Boston Blackie" Miller; Alexander Pericles Mailis; Fernley Palmer; Persis Rodgers and the late Victor Cooper.
Posted by:Sep 24th 2003, 10:52:36 pm
EmilyHey, Thanks for bringing up the subject considering I think it is a very important one. I do not think Columbus Day should be celebrated, and I don't think it is down in the Bahamas... true? As far as being from the U.S. I am embarrassed not only that this country still celebrates this holiday, but moreover that it is the foundation on which our country has been built. The reality of Columbus is that he landed IN THE BAHAMAS (not the U.S.) and systematically wiped out the native Arawak Indians who were described as "remarkable for their hospitality" (reminds me of Briland still today) and extremely generous by taking them into slavery and wreaking war upon them. If anyone wants to know more a great resource is the book "The people's history of the U.S." and it begins by describing the Columbus expedition which was fueled by the quest for gold and the vengeance of inhumanity. Columbus is one of the first people to take native people's by force and enslave them. I feel passionately that this is a devastation still alive within the systems of many cultures and I hope more people like Samedi and I continue to talk about these travesties and work to make things different. I hope I can always find love and acceptance in my heart, and I wish the same for the world. Peace
Posted by:Sep 24th 2003, 09:16:29 pm
SamediSo, Columbus Day will soon be here, and in an act of curiosity do you think it should be celebrated? Honestly,I think it shouldn’t, why celebrate a day for someone who destroyed a civilization, just something I was wondering.

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