October will never be the same. It is, after all, a season of change: Summer’s green turns to myriad colors, and we complain not.
But, oh, the howl that arose when someone dared suggest there’s something suspicious about our cultural myth of this continent’s founding — and not just from those of Italian descent.
Indeed, ‘tis the greatest shame of all that self-serving wags of yore would tell a lie with which time and truth were bound to catch up.
“In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” which he did. What he didn’t do was “discover” what he said he did. Seeking a passage to India he came upon some brown-skins and said something akin to, “Look! Indians!”
But kids in earliest grades, upon our first hearing the account, have always been heard to say, “But if he ‘discovered’ it, who were the people he met there? Potted plants?” And that reaction is met with the kindly authoritarian rejoinder of “Now, now, children” followed by a “because-I-said-so,” which kids already learn closes off debate.
Truth is, Columbus was wandering around lost and the natives found him. But might makes right and one party to the event had the power of a throne behind him and the other was about to become slaves.
It’s a twisted tale with variations in other times and places. Couple years ago I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was the October time of year and I was told how lucky I was to bear witness to the famed “Entrada,” or “Arrival” celebration of that fair city, whose name is translated, “Holy Faith,” and for good reason.
It was the same year that I beheld the cheesiest re-enactment of anything ever, as the Spanish establishment of that burg spread the b.s. that the arrival of their foreparents into the region was a delightful event that brought nothing but good to the natives, as well as Mexicans who had migrated north of the border and, again, were there “before” the Spanish.
But victors tend to write the history, ignoring that later historians are bound to find the truth – that the Spanish enslaved all the natives for forced labor, made them change their religion and when necessary separated children from their families so the transformation of youth would go more easily as adulthood approached.
The very year that I first saw the bogus “Entrada” in Santa Fe was the beginning of the end.
Before I could register my own holding-of-the-nose in the presence of that stupid imitation of the #BigFatLie, an angry crowd was forming and I, a lifelong activist and protester, plunged in to join them. At the moment I wondered how long it would take for this reaction to have an effect, if any.
Silly me, it had a solid and everlasting impact. It was the Second Uprising of the pueblicitos, so to speak, who had taken objection with a bloody insurrection in the late 17th century that of course incurred worse retaliation from the Holy Faith contingent, and things went back to normal — you know, slavery, torture and land-gabbing.
And now, just like that, there is no more Entrada. After all, if you’re the longstanding “establishment” somewhere and have enjoyed all power and privilege, put on a gang-busters show about it, not a poorly-acted fairy tale that has long since morphed into an amateur presentation unworthy of your own kids’ pre-school Parents Night.
But that’s what happens to lies; in time, no one believes them and they fall into discredit and ruin.
In another trice, the movement in Santa Fe resulted in changing a “day” for Columbus into one for the indigenous people of the region, the true believers and same folks who had claimed and tended the land long before snobs from a Galaxy Far Away came with artillery and so-called “better” ways, behavior and beliefs to change everything.
As I watched young natives performing astounding hoop dances and Interpretive movements, and heard speakers talk not of snobbery and social caste superiority, but of healing divides and the inclusion of all who come to their gates and communities, I knew I was seeing a better world and a holier faith.
Then I thought of my resident state of liberal Massachusetts and my town of Newburyport and wondered: Why is there no Indigenous Peoples Day here? Who and what are we afraid of? Our reputation? Then what about the reputation of being afraid of our reputation?
John Burciaga of Newburyport writes on politics and social issues and may be disagreed with directly at Ichabod142@gmail.com.