Popular opinion says that Christopher Columbus, aka Cristóbal Colón, is responsible for the discovery of America. However, this ship captain was actually hired by the Queen of Castile and the King of the Aragon, who were married and ruled their united kingdoms together, to sail to India and establish the spice trade. Taking on this responsibility from his employers, Cristóbal Colón traveled west, expecting to reach India. He actually reached the Bahamas, on the first of four trips west to colonize the area.
On Colón’s second trip to the Islands, he traveled as far west as Cuba. After this, he invited the Spaniards to conquer the land and its people. Additionally, the king and queen invited Hernán Cortés to travel to Cuba, from Spain, to conquer the already settled land and train the natives in the Castilian language, religion, and military lifestyle.
Following these events, Cortés, his troops. and the natives he trained for conquest along the way continue to seize already inhabited land across the Bahamas and throughout Mexico. By Colón’s fourth time traveling west, he reached Central America where similar conquests and colonization were inflicted upon the natives by Spaniards.
This explains the recent surge and renewal of the early 1990’s campaigns to change “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples Day”. Social Media users advocated for the just due recognition of Indigenous Peoples through their various outlets, and at least nine cities have officially changed the name of the holiday to acknowledge the originally settlers of American soil.
Centuries after dominant groups seized Native American land and stripped it of their culture – and also mere weeks after emphasizing the issue of celebrating those that suppressed these Indigenous Peoples, Native Americans, other minority groups, and even the LGBT+ community are experiencing and having to address yet another example of misrepresentation of their cultures: appropriated Halloween costumes. The original “colonizing mindset” of the Spaniards and other European settlers that enabled them to suppress indigenous culture has led, in today’s America, to an appropriation of these cultures for entertainment. In response to this, several colleges and universities across the United States are executing a variety of “We’re A Culture, Not A Costume” Poster Campaigns.
Social Media Outlets, like Buzzfeed, have also spoken out about culture appropriating costumes.
How to be a black person for Halloween without being offensive: See Jimmy Fallon as “Lucious Lyon” pic.twitter.com/swgojCUrEF
— sabby. (@sabrinadunn) October 26, 2015
In light of the history of colonization and racism that led to this campaign, it is important to take action this Halloween and be aware of what your costume represents. To alleviate the sudden panic of persons who may realize that their current costume stereotypes, misrepresents, or may offend a cultural group, here is a remedy to the situation: Many individuals argue that if you dress as a particular person or celebrity instead of a general group of people, this is less stereotypical and therefore less likely to offensive. Costume wearers can also consult these articles at bustle.com and the Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group’s website for other suggestions of how to resolve the issue of last minute costumes and avoid cultural appropriation on this Halloween as well as those in the future.