Monday, October 10, 2011

Columbus Day in Sao Paulo.....

Today is the Columbus Day holiday in the United States (also celebrated in many Latin American countries and Spain) which is a "celebration" of Christopher Columbus' voyage to the America's on August 3rd in 1492. (You remember the jingle "1492, when Columbus Sailed the ocean blue" right?). I learned at a young age that that Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain with his three ships, the Santa Maria, the Nina, and the Pinta, to discover the world. However, this holiday was always been a bit confusing to me. As a child growing up just south of Columbus, Ohio (where I call home now), I thought we were celebrating our city, which is somewhat true. However there are much bigger things to consider regarding Christopher Columbus' westward voyage.  
The Santa Maria replica (non sailing) located in Columbus, Ohio

In fact, like I did as a child, most Americas (clarification for my South American friends, when I say Americans, I am referring to citizens of the United States of America), take their extra holiday and really do not care as to why they get the day off of work (note that not everyone gets the day off of work in the US).  In addition, most people do not realize that the actual holiday date is October 12th, however in the United States we love our long weekends, so we observe it on the second Monday in October each year. I would encourage you to take a few moments to get up to speed on the background of the holiday from the The History Channel as well.

In a few words, the holiday celebrates the discovery of the "new world" (despite that it was already inhabited by natives) by the Western world. Columbus was attempting to sail west, rather than the long and tedious eastward trip around Africa, in an effort to arrive in China and India. Columbus and his crew thought they had discovered China when they landed on Cuba and were certain that Hispaniola was Japan. These were some serious miscalculations. The main objective was to create a new trade route with the Eastern world by attempting what few had previously believed possible. After all, many at that time still believed the world was flat and Columbus was surely going to fall off the face of the world. My interpretation of this voyage is not that he found a land that was already found by the people that lived there, but it was a changing mindset, from thinking in One or Two-Dimensions (2-D) to thinking in Three-dimensions (3-D). Columbus' overall goal failed, that he did not discover an easier route to China and India. However, he "discovered" a great new place for expansion of civilization and more importantly mindset.

I do realize that the holiday has much opposition based on either the thought of it being a way to promote the Catholic religion or as an opposition to Columbus the man who was linked to brutal treatment and enslavery of many indigenous people. I understand those concerns. I am not trying to further the celebration either the holiday or the man but draw awareness to the metaphor of discovery and expansion of mindset. It becomes more and more apparent each day I am in Sao Paulo, that there is a lot more to the world than most people believe. It is also an example of how you may fail or falter to accomplish the thing you intended, but if you take a larger look at the situation, you have only created another opportunity.

In Summary, I encourage us all to expand our minds and look for new opportunities in our "westward voyage".

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