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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。





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。"




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。











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