October the 12th is not remembered in America as a jolly holiday. For millions of people from the Arctic in Canada to “Tierra del Fuego” in the Strait of Magellan, this day is the beginning of a suffering persisting today.
Where are the Taíno, the Guane, the Quimbaya, or the Pericúes? They didn’t face extinction only due to a cultural or technological displacement. They were chased, chained and murdered. They were massively eliminated for the mere reason of being the original inhabitants of the Americas.
I’m not asking for the return of such traditions and life styles. I’m asking the most essential and basic of what we can do: recognize the historical abuse over them, and listen to their needs, understand them and help them to overcome the problems we have set upon them. Because their demands don’t go for political dominance or economic advantages. They want to simply continue their lives with justice, respect and peace. Not more nor less.
Luckily most Latin American countries have acknowledged such barbaric past, and decided to include a thorough study of their origins in their agenda. First, eliminating the painful “Discovery day” from their national holidays, because saying that it was a discovery neglects the mere existence of previous inhabitants in the continent.
These countries don’t want to reject their European origin neither. On the contrary, they wanted to accept this culture as a father, imperfect as the American mother, but a parent nonetheless.
We Americans are the children of a distressing household. But is a home we have inherited and we must take care of. It is the only one and is ours.
That’s reason enough to not celebrate the abusive father, nor to forget him. We celebrate our home, our people, our diversity, our various backgrounds and stories. We celebrate our races, dead or alive.
And to further understand that, here are 5 books I personally recommend, to understand the magnanimity of America with the eyes of History:
- American Holocaust by David E. Stannard.
This was a present from my good friend Miguel, another American fellow from Colombia. Gruesome and hard, this book will show you the vicious way the Proto-Americans were forcibly removed from their land and sometimes even driven to mass extinction, using the dumb reason of profit and faith. Basically, religious excuses (money as God too) for Genocide.
- The Buried Mirror by Carlos Fuentes.
A poetic, beautiful and detailed account of both worlds before, during, and after the Spanish invasion of America. This book was made as a companion for a documentary of the same name. It was aired precisely on October 12th, 1992 to commemorate the arrival of Christopher Columbus to America.
What the producers didn’t know was that the Americans had a lot to say about the event. Much more than anybody wanted to hear.
- A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolomé de las Casas.
Bartolomé de las Casas was a Spanish conquistador, who initially took part in the enterprise of the conquest. But the horrendous acts of war made him renounce this project, and decided to make an account of his macabre experiences in the land.
This is a first-hand account of someone, who actually rode next to the conquistadors and decided to stay with the indigenous and protect them from the hostile new rulers.
- The Broken Spears by Miguel León-Portilla.
I have not read enough about the history of whole America, but this book of the Conquest of Mexico tries to rescue the version of the defeated as its title in Spanish declares (Visión de los Vencidos. Vision of the Defeated.)
The Broken Spears is a series of accounts from the different cultures of central Mexico narrating the days when they faced the new-coming Spaniards, their language, traditions and God(s). Unfortunately, there are not enough sources, but this is a good short compendium of stories around the first clashes of both worlds in continental America.
- The conquest of New Spain by Bernal Díaz del Castillo.
Another first-hand account and, again, centered around modern Mexico. This was written by Bernal Díaz, a soldier of the Spanish advancing and conquering Mesoamerica. Although his account is focused on the political and military moves of Hernán Cortés, he also recounts the approaches, fears and reactions of the original population of the area.
- The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois.
Because the history of Americans is not only the history of two continents. The third major player was black Africa, and her unfortunate people. Perhaps more painful than the extinction of a population, is its inhuman degradation for centuries.
America is strongly held by the African arms too. They were newcomers, taken by force, oppressed and exploited to death to ensure a mere profit. They were victims too, and they ARE brothers in this rising house we call America. The day of the Race wouldn’t be such without them.
These days we will be seeing transformations in the world, where the political decisions tend to move toward intolerance and isolation of cultures. America is not the exception, we fight in our countries for the dream land under the shape of republics and democratic federations, with representation and justice for everyone. Not perfect, indeed, but worth fighting for them.
Europe, especially Spain, should try to reach their brothers and sisters accross the Atlantic and recognize their impact in the world, without hiding it or trying to justify it like Spain’s RTVE Chief equalling Aztecs to Nazis (wtf?), because this comes right in the moment, when Spaniards are suffering an internal disintegration.
Spain’s national day is precisely today, when the nation celebrates its grandeour, justified by the arrival of Columbus to the Caribbean islands. Sadly, for much more people it was the beginnig of a genocide, and the imposition of a racial system that destroyed cultures and reduced the American population to bits during centuries.
It is now our task, of both Americans and Europeans, to recognize our identities, respect them and value them as what they are. Let’s sit down together, find the best in us, and work side by side. Finally as brothers.
“Viva España, pero España hermana, no dominadora de América.”
José María Morelos y Pavón.