On October 12, 1492, an Italian sailor, with the patronage of the Catholic kings of Spain, first stepped on lands of the continent that is now named after America. (Not the United States of America). Cristóbal Colón arrives at the Island “Guanahani” -now San Salvador-. This historical fact has generated various controversies and discussions among sociologists, anthropologists, historians, humanists, ecologists, politicians and religious from around the world. Some of these arose from the moment when Columbus stepped on lands of this new continent but all are fully valid until today.
—How is it commemorated?… This historical fact marks a before and after in the development of human civilization, although in its beginnings it had as protagonists the European and American autochthonous cultures. Therefore, the event is remembered and commemorated in different ways: In Mexico it is called “the day of the race”, in the United States of America and Canada “The Day of Hispanidad”, in Chile and Peru, “the day of the meeting of two worlds “, in Argentina” the day of respect for cultural diversity “in Bolivia the” day of decolonization “, in Spain” the national holiday “.
The celebration has very different and contrasting connotations, in Bolivia, for example it is a celebration almost of national mourning because in this one the genocidal events of the conquerors stand out over the native population. In Spain a true national celebration is celebrated, with a military parade before the presence of the monarchs. In the United States and Canada, events are held that tend to solidify the identity of the Spanish-speaking inhabitants (mostly from Latin American countries). In Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina, an internal division generated by the antagonistic convictions of those who participate in this celebration is clearly established. What side are you on?
—The first historical error… In the original plan of this expedition the objective was to reach “the Indians”. Columbus mistakenly believed that he had arrived in these lands, which is why they were mistakenly given the nickname of “Indians” to all the inhabitants of what little by little became known as the Americas or simply America.
—Discovery?… Much has been said and discussed if this fact was a discovery. If we stick to the definitions of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), it has been a discovery since, according to the dictionary of this institution, discover is, “Find what was ignored or hidden”, therefore, the term it is current and correct if it is observed from the European point of view.
—And the Vikings?… America (not the United States of America), had as its first European visitors, the Vikings who settled in the eastern region of Canada several centuries before the arrival of Columbus to San Salvador. So, why is not the arrival of the Vikings considered the ultimate event of the discovery of America? The reason is more or less simple; The Vikings chose to withdraw from the sites in which they had settled and on the other hand there is no certainty about the date of their arrival or withdrawal from the eastern islands of Canada. The reason why they decided to leave the settlements they had established there is unknown until now.
—Meeting?… This word also generates debates and discussions among scholars and it is because here we touch the aspect of human contact between individuals and societies that until that moment had two different ways of observing and developing in their own cosmogony. If we consider that, according to the RAE, I find means to coincide in a certain space and time, I would dare to define that it was an encounter.
—Conquest?… Definitely yes. There is no option to define the process developed after the encounter and the discovery by the Spaniards in a different way to that of “Conquest”. The worst of the case is that the conquest was carried out in a brutal and violent way to such a degree that the genocide committed by the Spanish conquerors and later of other European countries (mainly Portugal, France, England and Holland), undermined the Native American populations up to 75% and in some cases led to total extinction.
“Intervention” is the definition that according to my point of view is more in line with reality. I would add the word “violent”. Murders, collective massacres, confinements and slavery was the common denominator of this harsh and painful process.
—Cultural enrichment?… The human groups that were already established in America until the arrival of the first Europeans had a very high level of culture, their cosmogony shone with their own lights, their political, civil, social, religious and artistic organization was perfectly developed and in truth, in many aspects was superior to what the Europeans established by force after the conquest. Proof of this are the archaeological vestiges of the great and magnificent Quechua metropolises in Peru and Bolivia, or the Maya in Honduras Guatemala and Mexico, or the Mixtecas, Totonacas, Olmecas, Toltecas, Teotihuacanas and Aztecs in Mexico, (among many others) .
When the conquests were consolidated, slowly and painfully in each of the current countries of America, the cultural elements of conquerors and conquered suffered an inevitable fusion, which for many is an invasion, for others a merger and for others more an enrichment than it gave rise to a new culture with its own and very defined characteristics, which has been identified throughout the world with the term “Mestizaje”.
—My conclusion… Each of the points I have addressed in this brief document, and many others that for obvious reasons I have omitted, has been the subject of studies whose results are shown in countless books, radio programs, television, newspapers, magazines, etc., and they have been discussed in forums, meetings, congresses and symposiums around the world.
What is written here is just an atom in the universe of knowledge, but for those who have little time, this information can present an interesting and general perspective on this topic, which I must clarify, I have developed based on my academic preparation and my experience, giving it a strictly personal nuance.