El Pub is a popular Cuban restaurant located on Calle Ocho in Little Havana, Miami. What stands out besides its great Cuban and Latin food is a large mural depicting Christopher Columbus’ arrival in what is now known as Hispanola, the island containing the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The mural is there to honor this great explorer who was responsible for the Cuban and Latin presence and ongoing history in the Americas. Sadly, there has been reoccurring negative propaganda over the recent decades pertaining to the logic behind removing ‘Columbus Day’ as an official holiday with ‘Indigenous Day’. The Biden administration, led by Kamala Harris has been very vocal in its contempt for Columbus and the Knights of Columbus. Let it be clear:
Christopher Columbus was an Italian navigator from Genoa, Italy. He manifestly ventured out toward the so-called new world to accomplish three tasks: spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, acquire new riches for the Kingdom of Spain, and leave a lasting legacy for himself. He accomplished all three.
A devout Catholic, Columbus believed he was called to spread the Gospel: that as God sent Jesus into the world, Jesus has sent his disciples to proclaim him and to teach all nations in his name. Consequently, the Americas - north and south, are predominantly Christian in number and of a Christian based culture, including Native Americans.
Secondly, he sought increased riches, power and worldly status for Queen Isabella. This was certainly realized in a short period of time. But for us and more importantly in that process, we witness five centuries plus of an exchange of animals, plants, products and peoples from four continents. For example, and as a result, the Americas received such animals brought by Columbus himself: horses, cows, bulls, and sheep. What would the northern Native American culture be without horses? He supplied plants such as sugar, oranges and wheat, a main source of food for all the populace of these two continents – say, bread and pasta. In return Columbus and even more so, those who followed after him, brought to Europe and Africa corn, tomatoes, okra, potatoes, just to mention a few. Okra and corn prevented starvation in Africa until the 1900s while tomatoes and potatoes prevented starvation in Europe. The Germans and Irish can thus thank these explorers and more specifically the Incas for its new supply of potatoes, while Italians are indebted to the Incas for tomato sauce.
More significantly in today’s era of identity politics, it was Christopher Columbus who initiated the exchange of Native Americans, African Americans and European Americans among four continents. It has taken over 500 years, but it is happening. Come to Miami or any major metropolitan community and you will see this multicultural Christian based society to which I refer. Europeans, Africans and Native Americans of all nationalities and ethnicities have migrated to all our major urban areas to create a mix of peoples never before seen in human history. Our emerging multicultural society requires a lengthy process and will require many more years and decades for it cannot be the ideal society we long for all at once. Thy Kingdom Come takes time.
We owe this and so much more to the efforts of the astronaut of his day, Christopher Columbus. The positive consequences of his ventures and those who followed far outweigh the negatives. Americans have discovered we live in, and now a part of, a multicultural world and multicultural society in the west. Well it has been developing for low these 500 years plus and all thanks to Christopher Columbus, his legacy.
As to the Knights of Columbus, the organization itself was founded in 1882 for the support of working class Catholics. Its insurance program was created for the protection of working class families. Today this fraternal organization of Catholic men are devoted to care for the elderly and indigent, feeding and clothing the poor, education and special education, veteran needs, human rights and racial equality, pro life issues, among other social justice causes.
Yet, the anti-Catholicism prevalent in today’s political environment is never so clear as when Supreme Court Justice candidates are asked if they believe their Catholicism and membership in the Knights might interfere with any possible future decisions. Or if they believe their religious beliefs keep them apart from the American mainstream. In addition, recent criticisms of the Knights include both ‘imposing and proselytizing’ and the fact that it is an all-male organization. That they are anti-women because they are against abortion, and anti-LGBT community for their opposition to gay marriage, that it is a racketeering organization because of its life insurance programs and policies. Such criticisms show both an ignorance of Catholicism and the many efforts of the Knights in helping the poor in our communities. A clear prejudicial judgment and discriminatory practice according to political ideology, this requires our steadfastness in standing up for our religion, beliefs, and religious rights.