I am a strong supporter of the movement throughout the U.S. and Latin America and the Caribbean to stop celebrating Columbus Day.
Critics of the pro-Colombus status quo signal to the cruelty and harshness of Spanish empire-building and by extension, European and British colonization efforts in the Americas. Genocide of indigenous persons, the wholesale buying and selling of afro-descended peoples through chattel slavery, the wilful destruction of languages, cultures and cosmologies that were percieved by Europeans as “unknowable” and only worth knowing insofar as their knowledge could further domination— the degradation of natural resources in the “ New World”— all these are the legacy of Cristopher Columbus and others of his ilk.
We do not need to rewrite the past in order to wrest away symbolic imagery and ideological emphasis from those whose mission is to pillage and profit while subjugating as many human beings as they can along the way.
We do not need to honour power in the ways that bourgeois racist patriarchy has imposed on us. That is why many international social movements across the United states and Latin American and Caribbean nations, are pushing to replace Colombus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. And while culture is not the only arena of change that is essential for our common future, it would be good to finally acknowledge the historical and contemporary wrongs of settler and extractive colonialism.
From Turtle Island to the land of the Quetzal and the lands of the Condor, indigenous nations are grappling with what it means to be peoples without states or control over national infrastructure to facilitate their well-being and continued survival.
Nearly a hundred years ago, revolutionary activist , Jose Carlos Mariategui, writing about his beloved Peru, spoke of how the country’s Europeanized left needed to come to terms with the very real presence and exploitation of Kichwa and other native peoples in Peru. Mariategui’s plea to locate revolutionary social movements on the murky terrain of real-life demographics and the social relations of feudalism, capitalism, and indigenous modes of producing complicated the ahistorical and imperialist idealism of the early twentieth century’s anarchist and communist movements. We are witnessing some of the alliances that he spoke of, not in his country of Peru, but in Ecuador, right now.
The indigenous communities and citizens of Ecuador are leading an uprising against the draconian austerity measures that are destroying the country. They hope to bring down the government of the ironically named Lenin Moreno– and as importantly, the neo-liberal profiteers and war mongers with whom he is allied. Armed with sticks against the Ecuadorian military, protestors have managed to make Moreno flee with his entourage and parliament from Quito, the country’s highland capital, to Guayaquil, a coastal city.
While I will delve into Mariategui’s thoughts in depth in a future post, the important point here, is that an acknowledgement of the imposition of Spanish conquistador and settler rule both transformed and attempted to obliterate all that lay beneath it. Mariategui’s approach to political theory was rooted in the potential of Andean revolutionary movements in the mountains where the peoples of the condor still make up a vast majority.
All over Latin America, the United States and Canada, first peoples and their descendents are participating in a resurgence of collective voice and fightback against ecocide, capitalism and a brutal patriarchy whose female, trans, lesbian and gay victims are increasingly characterized by intersectional identities. But broadly speaking, poverty is a shared characteristic of those who are fighting back against austerity policies that are engendering starvation, insecurity and environmental contamination.
The paths chosen by these different nations and their alliances, may differ from country to country. Quito is not Standing Rock or Grassy Narrows or Ayotzinapa or Ayacucho or Haida Gwai. But in order to stand shoulder to shoulder with indigenous peoples in whatever countries we inhabit, we must begin to hear with their ears, see with their eyes, and abandon the notions that “white is right” and “might is right”.
We must shift the lens from the eye of the eternal colonizer whose great body we make up in settler societies through our schools, courts, health care, and governments, our Indian Acts and Decrees of Prohibition, our broken treaties and broken societies. We must shift the lens to the eye of the colonized so that we can work to create a future environment of racial and economic justice where the land and her people are relations, not dominators and dominated.
I’ll leave you with some fantastic music from aboriginal performers from North America, both past and present. And some art representing a fraction of the richness of indigneous artists and their sympathizers!