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Columbus Day

by Marc Becker
October 12, 2003

On October 12, Indigenous and peasant peoples from throughout the Americas gathered in Caracas, Venezuela for an International Encounter of Resistance and Solidarity. The purpose of the assembly was to strengthen the fight against neoliberal globalization and economic imperialism, and to build solidarity in favor of the earth and the people who live on it.

Globalization, of course, is not a new phenomenon. Neither is globalization necessarily a negative phenomenon. But Christopher Columbus and many other imperialists who have come after him represent the worst kind of globalization. 511 years after Columbus sailed the ocean blue, globalization in the form of the FTAA, the WTO, and the IMF continues to devastate the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Christopher Columbus is a classic grade school hero–and one that is built on a very tall pile of lies. We are told that he proved that the world was round, even though people had known this for millennia and the only astounding thing about Columbus’ ideas was how completely wrong he was (the earth was much larger than he thought). We are told that Columbus discovered America, but yet with people living in this hemisphere for tens of thousands of years he discovered it only in the sense that a robber might be said to “discover” cash in a bank vault. We are told that he was a great sailor, but yet his crew almost threw him overboard because of his gross incompetence. We think of him as an original thinker working outside of the box–and that characterization might actually work if we do not value critical, logical, or rational thought processes.

From an Indigenous point of view, far from being a hero Columbus symbolically represents the destruction of cultures, languages, and belief systems. He took lands and livelihoods away from people, and subjugated them to slavery, foreign rule, and an alien culture. His conquest meant the negation, denial, and oppression of the identity of a people. His imperialism was designed to deprive people of the resources needed to survive, condemning them to a life of poverty in a world of plenty.

Far from being victims, 511 years later Indigenous peoples continue to defend their lives and cultures. Rather than being silent, they are writing their own history–as well as the history of the rest of the Americas. They have taken the lead in condemning neoliberalism that for the last half millennium has taken the wealth of the most impoverished peoples of our planet and given it to the richest and most powerful elite classes.

Indigenous peoples call on the rest of us and inspire us to globalize the struggle, to globalize the hope. Another world is possible!

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