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Columbus Day: Some Love It, Others Not So Much

作者:Kelly Jean Kelly 发布日期:10-12-2015

Isabella Nordstrom waves an Italian flag near a large statue of Christopher Columbus before the Columbus Day Parade in New York on Oct. 14, 2013.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Isabella Nordstrom waves an Italian flag near a large statue of Christopher Columbus before the Columbus Day Parade in New York on Oct. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

This is Columbus Day, the second Monday in October, in the United States. It is a federal holiday. That means most federal offices are closed.

The holiday honors the first visit to America by the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Columbus thought he could reach the Far East by sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe.

He was right.

But he was also wrong. He thought the world was much smaller than it is. He did not imagine that another continent - and another huge ocean - lay between Europe and East Asia.

Columbus and his crew arrived in October 1492 on an island they called San Salvador, in today's Bahamas. They explored that island and nearby islands now known as Cuba and Hispaniola.

Columbus believed these were the coastal islands of East Asia, then called the Indies. That is why he called the people who lived on the islands "Indians."

He refused to accept he was wrong about the geography, even though local plants where he explored were unknown in Europe or Asia, and native people did not understand any languages spoken in the East.

Columbus made several other trips to what was called the New World. He saw the coast of South America and the island of Jamaica.

During his trips, Columbus explored islands and waterways, searching for a passage to the Indies. He never found it. Nor did he find spices or great amounts of gold as he had hoped. Yet, he always believed he had found the Indies.

So Why Columbus Day?

Many people have pointed out that Christopher Columbus never recognized where he really landed. Other European explorers did land in what is now the United States. But not Columbus.

More importantly, some say, Columbus did not "discover" a new world: many native people already lived here.

Critics of Columbus Day also strongly object to the holiday because Columbus treated native people cruelly. He enslaved some of the West Indians, forcing them to serve the Europeans or search for gold. He controlled parts of the population with violence and oppression.

In addition, Columbus and his fellow European voyagers forced native people to accept Christianity.

And, they brought new diseases that sickened and killed many of the native people. Columbus' arrival in the Caribbean was devastating to the people there.

So why do we honor Columbus with a U.S. holiday? Well, some states - including Alaska, Hawaii and South Dakota - do not. Other Americans use the day to celebrate native people instead of Columbus.

Some people ignore the day all together. They use the time off work and school to tour the countryside in New England and see the changing colors of maple trees. Others go shopping and take advantage of Columbus Day discounts and sales.

Even though Columbus Day is one of the most disputed holidays in the U.S. calendar, scholars say the origins of Columbus Day aimed to bring Americans together. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison called on the country to observe Columbus Day. He invited Americans to take a day of rest from work, and to reflect on how much they had achieved in the 400 years since Columbus landed in San Salvador.

Historian William Connell writes in the magazine The American Scholar that President Harrison also wanted to honor Italian Americans and Native Americans with the holiday. At that time, both groups had recently suffered violent attacks. And they suffered from ongoing discrimination in the U.S.

Historian William Connell argues that President Harrison believed that Columbus Day could unite all Americans in shared, patriotic pride.

I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.

This story was written by members of VOA Learning English . Kathleen Struck was the editor

Words in This Story

spices - n. substances (such as pepper or nutmeg) used in cooking to add flavor to food

devastated - v. destroyed much or most of something

ignore - v. do nothing about

reflect - v. think carefully about something

discrimination - n. the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people

每年10月的第二个星期一是美国的联邦法定节日 "哥伦布日"以纪念克里斯托弗·哥伦布1492年10月12日到达美洲大陆。但它也是美国最具争议的节日之一。

意大利人克里斯托弗·哥伦布在1492年到1502年间在西班牙国王的资助下四次横渡大西洋,到达美洲大陆,曾经被认为是"发现"了美洲新大陆的第一人,也因此成为了名垂青史的航海家和探索家。

在全世界很多国家和地区都有庆祝哥伦布到达美洲的传统,如美洲的哥伦比亚、委内瑞拉、哥斯达黎加,还有欧洲的西班牙和意大利。1906年,科罗拉多成为美国第一个庆祝哥伦布日的州。1937年,富兰克林·罗斯福总统正式将它定为美国的联邦节日。

颂扬文化传统和开拓精神

由于哥伦布是意大利人,美国各地的意大利裔将哥伦布日作为颂扬意大利民族的文化遗产和传统的机会。每年这一天,意大利裔美国人都会在纽约举行大游行,华盛顿的国家意大利裔美国人基金会和哥伦布基金会也会举行一系列纪念活动。

全国意大利裔美国人基金会会长约翰·维奥拉(John Viola) 说:"我认为哥伦布日的意义是多方面的。首先,对我们意大利裔美国人的社区,这是一个机会和节日,我们能够颂扬我们为这个国家做的贡献,弘扬我们祖先的历史。我认为对于其他美国人,哥伦布日是颂扬这个移民国家的方式,移民承担着风险,走向一个未知的世界,发现并带回了这个神奇的大陆。"

历史地位改变

不过,哥伦布在当代成了有争议的人物。人们指出,历史上所谓哥伦布"发现新大陆"是说法是以欧洲为中心,实际上,北美大陆早就有了原住民。由于哥伦布以为他抵达的是印度,所以把这些原住民称为"印第安人"。

批评人士还指出,哥伦布到达美洲大陆是欧洲人对美洲殖民统治的开始。

乔治梅森大学历史学教授约瑟夫·吉内廷-皮拉瓦(Joe Genetin-Pilawa)举了一个例子。

他说: "他将印第安奴隶带回欧洲。他将加勒比原住民作为奴隶带到西班牙的种植园。从1492年开始,在哥伦布最初登陆的10年里,也就是到1502年,我们估计,仅巴哈马的原住民人口就从大约1百万人下降到了500人左右。"

美国印第安人认为不应该纪念哥伦布,他们对这段曾经被欧洲人粉饰的历史仍然感到不满。

美国印第安人全国大会(National Congress of American Indians)副主任罗布特·霍顿(Robert Holden)说:"我们对那些不是原住民写的,受众群也不是原住民的历史资料总是持怀疑态度。这段历史不是我们写的。"

乔治华盛顿大学历史学教授大卫·斯威尔曼(david silverman)肯定了哥伦布的历史贡献,但他说,对美洲原住民的奴役和屠杀不该被忽略。

他说:"我不认为应该关注于哥伦布的一个方面而忽视其他方面。应该将两方面放到一起,使他成为一个立体完整的人物。"

原住民日

而"哥伦布日"的设立和命名也有争议。有人建议将这一天改为"原住民日"。

霍顿说,他们不庆祝"哥伦布日"这个节日,在这一天正常上班。

美国的一些地方和美洲一些国家设立了"原住民日",正好跟"哥伦布日"同一天,以表达他们的不满。有些地区甚至还对哥伦布进行模拟审判。

大卫·斯威尔曼说:"我们希望我们的公共仪式和活动能够尽量具有包容性,而'哥伦布日'不符合这个条件,它系统地排除了大多数美国人和美国原住民。"

约瑟夫·吉内廷-皮拉瓦说:"我确实认为,我们应该对以克里斯托弗·哥伦布命名联邦节日质疑。至于以什么命名这个节日,我支持设立'原住民日'。"

全国意大利裔美国人基金会的约翰·维奥拉则说,自从哥伦布来到美洲的那天起,这块土地发生了翻天覆地的变化,所以"哥伦布日"应当保留。但他也说,原住民也有权享有自己的节日。

"我认为原住民社区可以找一天,作为集中讨论一些问题的好机会,并说:'等等,我们来谈谈这对我们原住民意味着什么。'"维奥拉说。

目前,一些人士正在游说美国国会,希望能够将"原住民日"合法化。

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