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Press Statement of Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Estudios and the Red Earth Women's Alliance 

Nita Gonzalez
Denver, CO
September 6, 2001

It can be said that America was not discovered in 1492 because those who invaded it did not know how to see it and embrace their own humanity. Four years after Christopher Columbus first set foot on the beaches of this Great Turtle Island what we now call America, his brother Bartholomew inaugurated a crematorium in Haiti and the Caribbean. Six Indians, found guilty of sacrilege, were burned at the stake. The Indians had buried a few little drawings of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary so that these new gods would make their plot of corn more fruitful. They felt not the slightest twinge of guilt because it was an act of faith not a mortal offense.

In 1492 America was invaded, not discovered, since thousands of years previous it was populated by the sophisticated Indigenous nations who lived and thrived here.

However, not all who came failed to see the humanity. Spanish revolutionary Gonzalo Guerrero saw it. He was the conquered conquistador, and having seen it he was slain. Certain prophets saw it, Bartolome de Las Casas, Vasco de Quiroga, and Bernardino de Sahagun. And having seen it they were condemned to solitude. But this land and its native peoples were not seen by Columbus, the soldiers and the monks, the notaries and the merchants who came in search of quick fortune and who imposed their religion and culture as the only way of life. The first Columbus Day, known in some parts of Central and South America as the Day of the Race, began a cycle of racism that America has yet to free itself from.

No imperial undertaking, neither past nor present, has the capacity to discover that which is already known. An adventure of usurpation and plunder does not discover: it covers up. It doesn't reveal: it hides. And to be successful it needs self-serving alibis and justifications that turn arbitrariness into law.

Columbus set the stage for the most brutal genocidal conquest ever witnessed by the world. This conquest continued in America what had begun and was still occurring in Europe in those same years. In 1562, Fray Diego de Landa burned the Mayan codices in a gigantic bonfire in the Yucatan. In 1499 in Granada, Archbishop Cisneros tossed three Islamic books on the flames. Columbus a mercenary paid with Spanish money began the conquest of America for Spain with a force of colonization and suffering of the most ferocious kind.

Poverty, prejudice, injustice, violence that plague our Raza here and in Central and South America do not come from our exotic nature, but have deep roots in history: from the times in which Columbus's colonization was made to serve Europe's accumulation of wealth.

In today's world we strive to guide our children towards a more humane life. We want to provide all children with a tremendous sense of worth and integrity. We endeavor to raise them with a strong understanding of all nations who occupy this world. But when schools, governments and laws "celebrate" genocide, slavery, and theft we must have the moral courage to stand against this and say YA BASTA!

By saying no to celebrating genocide, by saying no to a global system of greed, by saying no to injustice we are no longer shackled by our fear and can say yes to the universal values of freedom, equality, and justice.

In the tradition of our indigenous ancestors, in the name of my grandmothers and grandfathers, in spirit of all our ancestors I stand here to announce the beginning of a fast. A fast that embraces the core of who we are as Chicanos, Mexicanos, Indio, Italian, Peruvians, Mayans, all nations. "Although fasting is one of the weapons in our armory, it should not be forgotten that it is, after all, only a means to appeal to the moral conscience and secure the cooperation of all peoples consistently with truth and justice"...Ghandi

Throughout this fast we challenge people in different communities and different segments of society who have themselves experienced the pain of racism, the pain of poverty, the pain of exclusion to do the following:

Challenges
  • Challenge faith based communities to pass a resolution rejecting Columbus as the first transatlantic slave trader. To call on their congregations to join us October 6 Four Directions All Nations March.
  • Challenge people in all our communities to find their voice to oppose Columbus and the Columbus Day parade by endorsing Transform Columbus Day.
  • Challenge Mayor Webb to "do the right thing" and announce his personal opposition to the celebration of a slave trader.
  • Challenge City Council to take an affirmative step to introduce a resolution to repudiate Columbus and support this day as All Nations Day.
  • Challenge Ari Zavaras to deny the request for a second permit. In the event a second permit is granted that it be awarded to the first party which requested it, the Four Directions/All Nations March.
  • Challenge State legislators to introduce legislation to repeal the holiday.
  • Challenge 100 elementary/secondary teachers to reorient their curricula to reflect the diverse perspectives of this history.

For those who would say this is not our problem, our issue nor our people. I ask when is the ongoing injury and pain of peoples' children not our problem. When is the injustice of poverty, violence, and racism not our problem? When is inhumanity not our problem? This is our issue---this is a Chicano issue---this is a Mexicano issue---this is a Latino issue---because we are familia, we are mestizo, we are indigenous.

Did Zapata, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Delores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Corky Gonzales, Leonard Peltier say injustice, indignity; inhumanity was not their problem? NO. 

"Injustice any where is a threat to Justice Everywhere" Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

2004 Transform Columbus Day Alliance
10/20/2004