- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

Christopher Columbus was a hero in many places yesterday.

“The journey of the explorer from Genoa is one of the great stories of daring and discovery,” President Bush said in a Columbus Day observance.

“Every aspect of our culture, whether it be art or music, to law and politics, owes something to the influence of Italian Americans,” Mr. Bush said.

The traditional interpretation of Columbus Day also was evident around the nation.

Manhattan hosted its 74th Columbus Day Parade yesterday, led by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and including city workers and about 35,000 participants.

San Diego staged a “Columbus Day Parade of Patriotism,” while more than 90 fancy floats rolled through Baltimore during that city’s 114th consecutive Columbus Day Parade on Saturday.

Parades also were staged in San Francisco, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, among other cities.

Earlier this year, the state Senate of Colorado saw fit to commend Denver and Pueblo in an official resolution “for continuing the tradition of observing Columbus Day.”

“Other communities throughout Colorado are encouraged to recognize Columbus Day with their own celebration,” the resolution concluded.

Both cities have seen vigorous anti-Columbus parades and protests in the past two years.

The holiday, once an optimistic celebration of America’s discovery, has been condemned by critics as an archaic, “Euro-centric” holiday that demeans indigenous Americans.

Columbus — and the Spanish, Italian and Portuguese explorers who followed — were “worse than Hitler,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas on Saturday, noting they triggered “the biggest invasion and genocide ever seen in the history of humanity.”

“Long live Sitting Bull,” Mr. Chavez said.

Some researchers declared the Columbus “myth” had ended, contending a Chinese explorer beat Columbus to the “New World” by 72 years, or that the explorer arrived here simply by navigational accident.

These days, anti-Columbus factions have proposed the holiday be “recalled” or undergo a name change to “First Americans Day” or “Discovery Day.”

They also oppose “global patriarchy” and “corporate globalization” according to Transform Columbus, a Denver-based American Indian activist group that has staged counter-Columbus Day parades in the last two years.

The discussion is also ongoing in the Bahamas, where “Columbus Day” became “Discovery Day” years ago. Now some politicians want the name changed again to “National Heroes Day” to honor Bahamians rather than outside explorers.

There have been no easy answers.

“Herein lies the most fundamental question that the National Heroes Committee has to grapple with as it seeks to accomplish what I consider to be a laudable objective: What criteria should be used to determine who is a hero?” asked a Nassau Guardian editorial on Saturday.

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