Columbus Day


This is not a city celebration in Ohio, though it is safe to say that the capital city was named after the Genoa navigational explorer Cristoforo Colombo. Genoa at the time ran oblivious of a larger political configuration like today’s NYC. 

Cristoforo was an ambitious admiral who made trips from Spain in search of a direct route to Asia across the Atlantic rather than rounding Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. He landed in the Caribbean in 1492 that schooling had me learn. He made three more trips in 10 years.

Columbus Day became a U.S. federal holiday in 1937; it was unofficially celebrated since 1906. It’s called Discovery Day in the Bahamas; Giornata Nazionale or Fiesta Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo in Italy. It is Dia de la Hispanidad in Spain, Dia de la Raza in Latin America, Dia de las Americas in Belize and Uruguay. Argentina calls it Dia del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural. It is now politically correct to point out that the Americas was already populated when the explorer heave-hoed into the Caribbean. English Pilgrims followed later so it is no accident that the northern part of the first 13 states is called New England!

Folks around the Mediterranean, a shade darker than the Goths and the Franks of Gaul, were Ellis Island material, often forced to Anglicize their names because the dyslexic immigration officer could not recognize them (a joke on both the racial span). The Jews (kikes, yikes) and the Italians (wops) were not exactly welcomed in NYC.

So, having a Dago celebrated in New England was an improvement over the Pilgrims who kept their fingers to the trigger on the Native Americans. Sailing under Spain’s monarch, Cristoforo Colombo was christened Christopher Columbus in the English New World and had his first day 1866 in NYC.

TT observed the second Monday of October as Columbus Day but it is now the CNMI’s Cultural Day, heretofore celebrating indigenous Carolinian and Chamorro cultures, two groups that historically vied for attention from the colonizers after a local revolt caused the forcible move of Chamorros to Guam and the eventual invitation for Carolinian survivors of a devastating typhoon to settle Saipan as long as they lent their canoes and navigational skill to the Saipan-Guam seaway before the schooner plied the route. Those who ruled subjected the ethnical and linguistic cousins, the Chamorro and Carolinian, to the “divide and conquer” method, keeping them apart.

CNMI demographics, however, changed but while the majority are contract workers from many countries, primarily the CWs of the Philippines and Sinosphere (China, Korea and Japan), with the Hawaiians and the other Pacific Islanders joining the Carolinian-Chamorros (Chamolinian is a haole coined word), the locals are only 3 out of 10 residents. But decision-making remains the same as they always have in the Marianas at the turn of the last century, and in the rest of Micronesia during the TT period. The U.S. military sets the tune, the Department of the Interior keeps the front office, and we all dance.

That’s right, the U.S. military with the assistance of the Department of Homeland Security calls the shots, and legally so. For those who comment that the U.S. military takes advantage of local myopia, they are not completely inaccurate. The educated class danced to the U.S. military tune. They hum it on numerous transactions, in business and politics, smart enough to take advantage of their privileged position.

The islands as a strategic military location is what caused Uncle Sam to pay a lease, then encouraged the CNMI to join the union. I resided in the Marshalls and Guam a good four years before Reagan declared blanket citizenship on the CNMI in ‘86, more than 10 years after it voted to join the union in ‘75.

Tinian turning into a live fire training area with two-thirds of the geography under lease to the military, and Pagan as a live fire training ground are anticipated in the lease agreement long before the indigenous population was sophisticated enough to look after its own interests. 

With the CNMI of the U.S. territories contributing a huge number of personnel into active military duty—the Armed Forces being one of two major venues for upward mobility—our indigenes supports the military. It is now perceived by awakened locals and anti-military outsiders (the Pentagon just told Obama to retire and it will continue to secure Afghanistan against policy) to resist the active militarization of the islands, a salute hard to execute.

Cristoforo Colombo on Columbus Day and the CNMI’s Cultural Day are of no meaningful significance anymore. We do acknowledge that the charade of commenting on the EIS, as far as the command is concerned, is irrelevant, like CC of CC day. IMHO.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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