The Columbus story, when I learned it in elementary school, was very different than the way it is taught today. I grew up in Edmonton, and I am a generation removed from most university students in a first year class. It is startling and sad to realize that my whole generation (at least in the area where I grew up), learned that Columbus “discovered” America. Before that it didn’t exist. Nothing was said of indigenous people, and for many years I pictured the Americas back then as a completely untouched land ready to be claimed.
I learned a different story somewhere around the time I was graduating high school, but it certainly wasn’t in school itself. The entire curriculum back then focussed on the European story. I remember, when I realized that European settlers had essentially wiped out a thriving indigenous America, how betrayed I felt by my teachers and the school system. Thankfully, the “discovery of America” is being replaced with “the meeting of two worlds”, and we can begin to undo the damage that ignorance creates.
I must admit that the term Latin America existed within narrow borders in my mind. When we consider the “when” of the emergence of Latin America, a whole new world of questions arises. The video offers the idea that Latin America is a “political and social project” and that resonated with me. The idea that a certain group in France invented the term for their political gain is in some way satisfactory, in that it explains the flattening of the area into an easily sold piece of politics. In order to sell the idea of a unified Latin America to both those inside and outside of the group, the idea generators had to simplify it enough to make it easily used as a tool for their agenda. But the term has changed drastically since that time and, fortunately, is becoming more and more nuanced and elusive. This, of course, will continue indefinitely as the region continues to define itself and also as the rest of the world attempts to do the same.
For discussion this week, I am hoping we can discuss in greater detail the alternate stories about Columbus landing in the New World. The other side of the story.