Miguel Perez remembers the days when Italians saved Columbus Day. Now he hopes Latinos will.

In a syndicated commentary piece, Perez says Columbus “to most of us … was the ultimate explorer, the gutsy genius who brought Europe to the New World, one of history’s greatest figures.”

For others, Columbus Day is “a day to malign the memory of Columbus. Because he opened the gate to the New World, they make it seem as if he personally ordered the slaughter of millions of indigenous people. Some extremists have compared him to Hitler; others have called him ‘America’s first terrorist.’”

Perez says “blaming Columbus for a holocaust is a terrible distortion of history, especially because most of the killing was conducted by Italian, Spanish, French, English and Dutch explorers who came to the Americas much later.”

To Latinos the day is “Dia de la Raza” (Day of the Race) or “El Dia de la Hispanidad,” “the day when most recognize and many celebrate the Spanish blood that still runs through their veins. Latinos credit Columbus for giving them their common Spanish language and identity.”

Says Perez, “In the United States, when Native Americans protest against Columbus, who never even set foot in North America, history clearly is being stretched. And when U.S. Latinos protest against Columbus, they are doing their Hispanic community a great disservice.”

— Tom Hoopes