Let me start by saying that the Hon. Nicholas Isgro, mayor of Waterville, has every right to make as many proclamations as he likes. Such random proclamations come with the office. Donald Trump makes them all the time, only he calls them “tweets.”

The document read: “Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492, after which European immigrants brought music, art, science, religious principles and other benefits to America, helping to shape the U.S., introduce Christian ethics and the belief that all men are created equal. On Columbus Day we honor the skilled navigator and man of faith who President Benjamin Harrison described as a ‘pioneer of progress and enlightenment’ whose spirited voyage transformed the western hemisphere and inspired countless others to pursue their dreams and convictions in the face of seemingly insurmountable doubts and adversity.”

It goes on to say, “Italian-Americans constitute the fifth-largest ethnic group in the United States,” and “their contributions to American culture, business and civic life have been of unquestionable value to our diverse shared history.”

So America began to honor Christopher Columbus, a Genoise, by the way, who became in legend, the discoverer of America. Of course, we now know that is “fake news.”

I don’t want to make trouble, but a Canadian friend of mine has alerted me to an interesting fact. Leif Ericsson was the first European believed to have reached North America (Canada) 500 years before Cristoforo Colombo. (His mother called him that, as in “Cristo, eat your lasagna.”)

I imagine that if the weather in Maine wasn’t so bad, Leif would have ventured southward, planted his flag somewhere in Hallowell, and would now be hailed as our discoverer. Wouldn’t that be a game changer? Imagine, Ericsson, Ohio, Ericsson Circle in New York. It could be even worse.

Roughly 2.7 million Americans live in 54 counties, districts, cities that are named after Columbus. Good grief. Leave well enough alone I say.

But more to the subject, we learned as well, that Christopher encountered the native people called Taino about whom he described in his diaries as, “They were very well built, with very handsome bodies and very good faces.”

Well, clutch my pearls. If Christopher spoke that way today, he couldn’t be elected president. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Of course, history — not the history that Sister Rosanna read to us, but information I dug out of the Associated Press file — tells us that “his men traveled from island to island, taking Indians as captives. In 1495, in a large slave raid, Columbus and his men rounded up 1,500 Arawak men, women and children, and put them in pens. (Is that where you-know-who got the idea?)

They selected what they considered the best natives and loaded them onto ships back to Spain — 200 died en route. After the survivors were sold as slaves in Spain, Columbus later wrote: “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.”

Holy Trinity? Sister, wherever you are, why did you not tell us that part?

The files also claim — and I heard this long ago from a Jesuit priest friend in Tokyo — that, “Natives who didn’t collect enough gold had their hands cut off.”

Well, here’s the news. Our new governor, the honorable Janet Mills, has declared Columbus Day null and void, and has established this day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Personally, I find that to be a clumsy choice. My vote is for Amerigo Vespucci Day. It was Amerigo, after all, for whom America is named. He also discovered Rio de Janeiro, thus giving us a ton of great songs, “Flying Down to Rio” being my favorite.

Also, Vespucci was a real Italian, born in Florence, Italy. That should make the mayor happy and calm the waters.

Everyone have a happy Vespucci Day.

 

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.