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Note: This essay was originally posted at NION in 2008. That site no longer exists. And it was reprised and updated in 2011 at The Dream Antillles. It was expanded to form a central part of my 2011 novella, "Tulum".

Once again, your Bloguero notes that it is Columbus Day Weekend. Your Bloguero often takes ten days off at this time. Why? Funny you should ask. Your Bloguero has two short answers: it's his Birthday. Your Bloguero was born exactly 399 years after the christening of Cervantes in 1547. Also, your Bloguero cannot abide the celebration of Columbus Day, which he sees as the beginning of the subjugation of this hemisphere. The last is best expressed in this 2008 post:


The Church In Baracoa, Cuba

Across the Caribbean from desde Desdemona is Baracoa, a small town inaccessible by land from before 1500 (when Columbus first landed there in 1492) until the 1960's. In 1512 Baracoa was the first Spanish settlement in Cuba. It's like Macondo. The lush forest of the Sierra Maestre and El Yunque, the tallest peak in Cuba, tower over the town. The town is nestled against the warm ocean. North of town is Maguana, a beautiful, white beach, shared by tourists and occasional foraging pigs.

Join me in Baracoa. We can celebrate Not Columbus Day together.

In the church in Baracoa is a part of one of the original crosses that Columbus planted in Cuba when he first landed there. It's not under guard. To see it, you knock on the back door of the church. Nobody there? Go across the street, as Bardo did, to find someone in the Parrocio to let you in. Bardo goes and asks to see El Cruz. The woman behind a counter says ok, let us find the key. She takes Bardo across the street, opens the back door, enters the silent, dark church, and in the nave there it is, in a glass case with no security at all, El Cruz de la Parra . The cross's 500-year old wood (it's been carbon dated) is held up by a metal holder (which is from much later on).

In many ways this is the most important relic, and maybe the most important marker in the history of the Western Hemisphere. It represents the beginning, the zero mile marker on the highway from then to now. If Columbus, instead of planting a cross and taking on the conquest and/or conversion of indigenous people, had said, "This place is really great so let's hang out here and enjoy it with the locals," the last 500 years would have been significantly, inconceivably different. And maybe, Bardo reminds us, a whole lot better. Bardo cannot believe what he's looking at. He makes a small donation to the church, and wanders off into the heat of the day. The woman closes up the church. Nobody else is waiting to see the cross.


If the Cruz were in New York or Madrid, it would have laser Mission Impossible security, armed guards, and lots of publicity around it. Lines of buses of tourists. Souvenir shops. Air conditioning. T-shirt sales. But there's none of that in Baracoa. Just the cross and the empty church in the middle of Baracoa.

Bardo buys a bottle of Habana Club rum ($3.25), sits on the roof of the Casa Particular where he's staying, and wonders if Macondo could be any more beautiful. He decides Baracoa is perfect and beautiful. He loves the way the mountainous jungle cascades to the town at the edge of the ocean. Columbus, he thinks, was right about one thing: Baracoa is one of the most beautiful places Bardo has ever seen. About everything else, he decides, he's with Alejo Carpentier, Columbus was dead wrong.

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

Originally posted to davidseth on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 07:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by Inherent Human Rights, America Latina, and The Americas South Of The Big River.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is where things went off the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, jessical, Mnemosyne

    tracks. I don't think it needs a holiday.

    Thanks for reading.

    Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

    by davidseth on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 07:59:26 AM PDT

  •  Two things (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davidseth, Avila

    I don't celebrate October 12 as Columbus Day ... in many places it is known as Dia de la Raza but I have never known if it clebrates the mixing of the races or is more a marking of the tragedy that came with Columbus. For me, October 12 is simply the day after my sister's birthday.

    And thank you for reminding me of Cuba, I went on a church trip some 20 years ago.  I loved the place and I loved the spirit of the people.

    "Life without liberty is like a body without spirit. Liberty without thought is like a disturbed spirit." Kahlil Gibran, 'The Vision'

    by CorinaR on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 08:20:23 AM PDT

  •  Baracoa...the town named for barbecue. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davidseth, Avila

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 08:39:03 AM PDT

    •  heh. n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon, Avila

      Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

      by davidseth on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 08:40:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You might be mistaking the chonology (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon, davidseth

      Baracoa was first.

      Baracoa is located on the spot where Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba on his first voyage. It is thought that the name stems from the indigenous Arauaca language word meaning "the presence of the sea."
      Then the term was corrupted to mean a means of cooking meat.
      Barbacoa is a form of cooking meat that originated in the Caribbean with the Taíno people, from which the term “barbecue” derives.
      So you are partially right ... but the people and the language come first, then the town and then the corruption.

      And, yes, the the order is important to some of us.

      "Life without liberty is like a body without spirit. Liberty without thought is like a disturbed spirit." Kahlil Gibran, 'The Vision'

      by CorinaR on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:31:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Traveled the road (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davidseth, Mnemosyne

    from Guantanamo to Baracoa a number of years ago--an amazing ride! The jungle and mountains in extreme eastern Oriente are something else.

  •  gracias (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davidseth, jessical

    y bravo, El Bloguiero de magis, for remembering the first people and honoring their memory.

  •  One sad reality is that much of the conquest was (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    through European germs. Some estimates put 90% of the mortality on epidemics. To the extent that is true, the first Europeans could have all been Quakers and Franciscans and the outcome, a decimated hemisphere with a replacement population, would still have happened. Some aspects of tragedy are beyond our control.

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 03:01:01 PM PDT

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