Columbus Day Sentiment Splits Florida’s Political Landscape

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Monday was the federally recognized Christopher Columbus Day, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a declaration commemorating the historical event of Columbus’ landing in the New World.

“Christopher Columbus displayed courage, determination, and perseverance when he sailed the ocean blue more than 500 years ago,” DeSantis tweeted. “Happy Columbus Day!”

In the proclamation, DeSantis said the day was a time of commemoration for Americans of Italian ancestry and defended Columbus’ legacy from those who exclusively highlight the impact of the historical events of war and disease the Genoan and the colonists had on the natives of the Western Hemisphere.

“WHEREAS, Columbus continues to be a historical figure who engenders the pride of nearly 17 million Italian Americans, a community whose warmth, generosity, patriotism, and love of family have made those characteristics even greater components of the broader American culture and way of life; and

WHEREAS, we must learn from history and continue to discuss Columbus’ contributions, discoveries, and experiences rather than revise history, and acknowledge that individuals who seek to defame Columbus and try to expunge the day from our civic calendar do so as part of a mission to portray the United States and Western history in a negative light as they seek to blame our country and its values for all that is evil in the world, rather than see it as a force for good…”

However, Florida Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried (D) said on Twitter she is celebrating and commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, an alternative recognition of the natives who, some progressives exclusively highlight, were killed en masse by European explorers.

“Today we celebrate our many indigenous communities and recognize the many wrongs that still reverberate,” Fried said. “We still have work to do.”

The debate between Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day has taken a political turn in recent years, with mostly conservatives viewing Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an attempt to revise history away from the impacts of Europeans on the New World.

Likewise, progressives feel Columbus Day is an antiquated celebration of colonizers who brought disease to the natives, and whose populations were largely wiped out.

The Florida Democrat Party issued a statement on Indigenous Peoples’ Day from party chair Manny Diaz.

“Although we can never forget the brutality, displacement and injustices visited upon our country’s Native Communities, let us seize this opportunity to reflect upon and show our appreciation for the great heritage and countless contributions of Indigenous Americans to life in our country, and to recommit ourselves to the work of ensuring a future that is more just, inclusive and equitable for the original inhabitants of the land we all now call home,” Diaz said.

Conversely, the Republican Party of Florida posted an image on social media commemorating the “courage” and “faith” of Columbus and other explorers.

“In honor of those who navigated the earth driven by courage, science, faith and discovery: Happy Columbus Day!” the post said.

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at the Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.
Photo “Christopher Columbus Statue” by Ricardo Liberato. CC BY-SA 2.0.

 

 

 

 

 

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