Don’t Count on Me

Statue of Christopher Columbus vandalized in Miami. (Miami-Dade Police Department)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 12 October 2020 —  Today, October 12, is a day that has several names: Day of the Race*, Hispanic Day,* and Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity. Each designation feels beautiful and laudable to me. That journey in 1492, when Christopher Columbus arrived in this part of the world, defined human civilization as we know it, changed the way we visually represent the planet and shaped the culture of millions of people.

Currently, there are movements and trends that question, criticize or extol that moment. All must have a voice in the polyphonic chorus that we have become. But, this little person that is me took a degree in Hispanic Philology twenty years ago, a profession that I could not have had if the intrepid Columbus had not thought that he could reach “The Indies” by heading the prow of his ships towards this part of the “Oceana Sea.”

Not only would I not have been able to graduate in this language, but my own existence would have been compromised because my ancestors crossed the Atlantic — long after the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa María — from a place quite close to the one from where the “craziest of sailors, sanest of founders” set sail. To top it all, I share my life with a descendant of this Island’s native Taíno people and my son looks like the Guamá cacique, with shorter hair and a modern shirt.

In my house, every day, multiple cultures meet. Nobody is startled or surprised. Nobody wants to deny or exterminate anyone. Pale hands share with coppery ones. Sometimes in his dreams he is a behique from those early times, while lying next to him I am walking El Camino de Santiago in my familial Spain; he prefers the cold water of the rivers where his ancestors bathed, and I – every so often – feel the salty breeze like the one that must have touched the visage of Rodrigo de Triana; he dreams of caves and I of the surprise of a humid forest that explodes for the first time in smells and colors in front of my face.

Let no one count on me to ride the time machine and prevent Columbus from reaching this hemisphere. I know and I recognize the pain that was derived from that moment, the deaths, the submission and the suffering; but I also know the lights, the poetry born from the collision, the love between bodies so different, the children born from the mixture, the telluric force generated. No, I will not travel back to October 12, 1492 to prevent Columbus from disembarking, because it would be killing my current friends, cutting off the life of my offspring in advance, cutting off my family tree and missing this language that is my life. Don’t count on me.

*Translator’s note: Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) is the term commonly used in some Latin America countries for what is called Columbus Day in the United States; others call it Día de la Hispanidad, among the many names in use in different places.


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