Country Highlights: Yemen & Syria

Part VII of a series on TPS

Missed the last blog?

There is a renewed hope for those in the United States under Temporary Protected Status. There are three acts proposed in congress, the Dream Act, the SECURE Act of 2017, and the Temporary Protected Status Reform Act of 2017, all of which aim to create a more stable permanent solution to TPS.

Yemen and Syria are the most recent countries granted TPS, and receive it due to armed conflict in both regions. Though TPS for Yemen and Syria are not set to expire soon, it is nevertheless important to understand why they continue to receive TPS and recognize the intricacies and uniqueness of the man-made crises each country faces.

 

Yemen

2016 Statistics*

  • 24 million Yemenis are food insecure
  • 8 million live in areas directly affected by conflict
  • 1 million are in need of humanitarian assistance
  • 8 million are forcibly internally displaced

 Overview

The Yemen Civil War stems from popular anti-government uprisings during the Arab Spring in 2011. Amid the uprisings President Saleh was forced to sign his powers over to Vice President Hadi, due to mounting pressure from the US, UK, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to step down after he led violent crackdowns on the demonstrations. The transition of leadership was meant to bring stability to Yemen. However, this was hindered due to government corruption, high unemployment, food insecurity, military officers remaining loyal to Saleh, and attacks by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Houthi Movement took advantage of the Hadi government’s weakness, and seized large portion of Yemen, forcing Hadi to flee the country in March of 2015.

Foreign powers led by Saudi Arabia launched offensive interventions to support the Hadi government against the Houthi Rebel Movement, who aligned with Saleh’s loyalists. In the midst of infighting, the Islamic State (ISIS) entered Yemen and fought for control over regions. The civilian population has suffered immensely from direct violence carried out by all sides.

Since the violence broke out in 2015, several UN-led peace talked and cease fires have failed to halt the civil war. The war has resulted in one of the largest man-made humanitarian crises in the world.

 

 Syria

2016 Statistics*

  • 470,000 dead from conflict
  • 1 million internally displaced
  • 8 million seeing refuge abroad
  • 1 million people living in besieged areas without access to humanitarian aid

Overview

Like Yemen, Syria’s conflict stems from the Arab Spring when school children were arrested for drawing anti-government graffiti on a school in Daraa. The arrests resulted in huge anti-government demonstrations. The Assad government used deadly force to crackdown on the demonstrations, resulting in the death of dozens and triggering nationwide protests.

As the uprising continued, Assad’s crackdown intensified, resulting in flagrant human rights violations. The mounting opposition began to take up arms throughout the country to both defend themselves, and to expel government security forces from their region. The violence quickly escalated, resulting in a civil war, which left a power vacuum allowing the ISIS to gain territory and power in Syria.

Assad government forces, ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other non-state armed groups are responsible for systematic and wide-spread violations of human rights, including targeting civilian with artillery, kidnapping, executions, use of child soldiers, torture, rape, and unlawful blocking of humanitarian aid. This war has created the largest refugee crisis since World War II and has torn apart the region.

Humanitarian aid is increasingly inaccessible in both Syria and Yemen, due to the volatility in the region as conditions continue to worsen. It is vital to continue to provide an escape from the violence for Yemenis and Syrians here under TPS. Please call your legislators to encourage them to sign on to an act to create a permanent solution for TPS.

 

*Most recent statistics available, likely to change

Up Next:

Country Highlight: Nepal – coming January 12th 

 

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Take Action in Defense of Democracy in Honduras

The crisis in Honduras in the wake of the November 26 election continues.  As documented here by Rick Sterling the evidence suggests strongly that the ruling National Party tampered with the voting process to ensure victory for Juan Orlando Hernandez:

After midnight on election night, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) stopped posting updates and effectively shut down for the next 36 hours. The TSE’s president, David Matamoros Batson, said the TSE had received 13,000 tally sheets but was missing 6,000 from the total. With just over 18,000 total, this does not quite add up. Then two hours later, Matamoros increased the number of missing tally sheets to 7,500.

When updates resumed, mid-day last Tuesday, the results consistently favored the incumbent right-wing President Juan Orlando Hernandez. The opposition lead steadily diminished then disappeared.

The leader of the Opposition Coalition against the Dictatorship, Salvador Nasralla, denounced the apparent malfeasance and protests commenced across the country. Police and military have sometimes responded violently. Numerous unarmed Hondurans have been killed over the past five days.

On Monday, more than a week after the election, the TSE announced results giving a narrow victory to the incumbent National Party President Juan Orlando Hernandez. As mass protests continue, the opposition has demanded a recount of all the tally sheets received after the TSE shutdown.

The situation continues to evolve. Protests have continued. The police, remarkably, announced that they would no longer enforce a curfew or prevent peaceful protests. A welcome respite after 10 days of state violence that left at least 13 people dead and hundreds detained.

The United States has some responsibility for events. It has provided military and police assistance to Honduran forces, despite years of evidence of complicity with human rights violations since the coup in June of 2009. Just this week it was announced that the Trump administration had certified Honduras as making sufficient strides in the protection of human rights to continue to receive aid – close to $55 million in the upcoming fiscal year. The Obama administration made a similar certification last year, claiming that Honduras had made significant progress to “protect the right of political opposition parties, journalists, trade unionists, human rights defenders, and other civil society activists to operate without interference.” A description sorely at odds with events on the ground.

As events continue to unfold we join with other human rights and solidarity organizations to demand that the U.S. government respect the democratic process. We invite all of you to contact your members of congress and demand that the U.S. respect the democratic process in Honduras.

You can call the U.S. Capital Switchboard to directly contact your Senators and Representatives: (202) 224-3121.  Get their phone numbers and email addresses; send them copies of this and other information; politely insist that they agree to any and all of the following demands; share your efforts with the media, family, friends and networks.

In the short term, the U.S. government and politicians must:

  • Publicly condemn the multiple acts of documented electoral fraud being carried out by the corrupt, military-backed government of Juan Orlando Hernandez and the National party;
  • Publicly condemn the suspension of constitutional rights, the imposition of a curfew and the acts of police and military repression happening across Honduras against anti-electoral fraud protesters and other citizens;
  • State unequivocally that the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez and the National Party will be held fully accountable for any and all electoral fraud and repression taking place;
  • Immediately suspend all economic, military, police and other “security” related relations with the corrupt, repressive government in power;
  • Advocate for a complete recount of ALL votes, carried out under full national and international supervision, or a new run-off election is held under full national and international supervision.
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Country Highlights: Somalia & South Sudan

Part VI of a series on TPS

Missed the last blog?

The Trump Administration is proving ruthless in their mission to limit immigration to the United States. Within the last two months, the Department of Homeland Security has ended TPS for two out of the 10 TPS-designated countries. However, there is a glimmer of hope for the remaining countries; DHS extended TPS for Sudan in September, showing some leniency and willingness to continue the program.

Between Somalia and South Sudan, 320 individuals are in the U.S. under the protection of TPS due to civil war and extreme violence in both countries. Though there are few TPS recipients from Somalia and South Sudan, compared to other TPS designated countries, we must remember they had a long and likely treacherous journey to reach the United States, and the number of recipients is no measure of their relative importance or the gravity of the conditions they left behind.

 

South Sudan

South Sudan received a freedom in the world score of 5/100 from Freedom House due to a lack of political rights, an inoperative government, an absence of civil liberties, and ineffective rule of law. South Sudan gained independence in 2011, and it has been at civil war since 2013, after President Salva Kiir (a Dinka) fired Vice President Riek Machar (a Nuer), deepening the division between the ethnic groups.

Violence was centered in Juba, the capital, but has since spread throughout the country. The UN and the African Union have reported government forces and armed ethnic militias directly targeting civilians, for murder, rape and torture. As of 2016, 1.9 million South Sudanese were internally displaced; there were 1.5 million refugees in neighboring countries; death toll estimates were in the tens of thousands; and ethnic cleansing was underway in parts of the country.

 

Somalia

This year Somalia received a 5/100 freedom in the world score from Freedom House due to grave human rights abuses, a lack of a free or stable government, and judiciary rife with impunity, among other things. The country is divided between three major actors: the internationally-supported national government, the separatist government, and al-Shabaab – all of which are fighting for legitimacy, power, and territory. This infighting has resulted in the loss of thousands of civilian lives, internally displaced persons, and loss of infrastructure.

According to reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as of 2016, 1.1 million Somalis were internally displaced; an additional 1.1 million Somalis refugees were in other countries; and over 50,000 civilians had been killed. Al-Shabaab routinely carries out guerilla-style assaults, public beheadings, bombings, and targeted attacks against civilians and civilian structures, such as schools and hotels. Al-Shabaab is not the only group responsible for violence against civilians. Reports from the UN confirm that both the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) are responsible for human rights and international law violations, including rape and indiscriminately killing citizens.

It is feared that the return of Somalis and South Sudanese from abroad will further exacerbate the crisis in both countries. The sheer amount of violence alone has made the return of citizens from abroad impossible. Coupled with the lack of economic opportunity and sustainable infrastructure, the return of South Sudanese and Somalis migrants appears unfathomable.

Please continue to call and write your legislators to fight for the renewal of TPS and to support the SECURE Act, which would create a pathway to permanent residency for TPS holders.

 

Up Next:

Country Highlights: Yemen and Syria – coming December 15th

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Country Highlights: Somalia & South Sudan

Part VI of a series on TPS

Missed the last blog?

The Trump Administration is proving ruthless in their mission to limit immigration to the United States. Within the last two months, the Department of Homeland Security has ended TPS for two out of the 10 TPS-designated countries. However, there is a glimmer of hope for the remaining countries; DHS extended TPS for Sudan in September, showing some leniency and willingness to continue the program.

Between Somalia and South Sudan, 320 individuals are in the U.S. under the protection of TPS due to civil war and extreme violence in both countries. Though there are few TPS recipients from Somalia and South Sudan, compared to other TPS designated countries, we must remember they had a long and likely treacherous journey to reach the United States, and the number of recipients is no measure of their relative importance or the gravity of the conditions they left behind.

 

South Sudan

South Sudan received a freedom in the world score of 5/100 from Freedom House due to a lack of political rights, an inoperative government, an absence of civil liberties, and ineffective rule of law. South Sudan gained independence in 2011, and it has been at civil war since 2013, after President Salva Kiir (a Dinka) fired Vice President Riek Machar (a Nuer), deepening the division between the ethnic groups.

Violence was centered in Juba, the capital, but has since spread throughout the country. The UN and the African Union have reported government forces and armed ethnic militias directly targeting civilians, for murder, rape and torture. As of 2016, 1.9 million South Sudanese were internally displaced; there were 1.5 million refugees in neighboring countries; death toll estimates were in the tens of thousands; and ethnic cleansing was underway in parts of the country.

 

Somalia

This year Somalia received a 5/100 freedom in the world score from Freedom House due to grave human rights abuses, a lack of a free or stable government, and judiciary rife with impunity, among other things. The country is divided between three major actors: the internationally-supported national government, the separatist government, and al-Shabaab – all of which are fighting for legitimacy, power, and territory. This infighting has resulted in the loss of thousands of civilian lives, internally displaced persons, and loss of infrastructure.

According to reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as of 2016, 1.1 million Somalis were internally displaced; an additional 1.1 million Somalis refugees were in other countries; and over 50,000 civilians had been killed. Al-Shabaab routinely carries out guerilla-style assaults, public beheadings, bombings, and targeted attacks against civilians and civilian structures, such as schools and hotels. Al-Shabaab is not the only group responsible for violence against civilians. Reports from the UN confirm that both the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) are responsible for human rights and international law violations, including rape and indiscriminately killing citizens.

It is feared that the return of Somalis and South Sudanese from abroad will further exacerbate the crisis in both countries. The sheer amount of violence alone has made the return of citizens from abroad impossible. Coupled with the lack of economic opportunity and sustainable infrastructure, the return of South Sudanese and Somalis migrants appears unfathomable.

Please continue to call and write your legislators to fight for the renewal of TPS and to support the SECURE Act, which would create a pathway to permanent residency for TPS holders.

 

Up Next:

Country Highlights: Yemen and Syria – coming December 15th

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Country Highlights: Central America

Part V of a series on TPS

Missed the last blog?

On November 6th the Department of Homeland Security announced the end of TPS for Nicaraguan migrants. Following this news, 2,550 Nicaraguans were given notice to prepare for deportation in 12 months. Hondurans were given some respite; the Department of Homeland Security announced an extension of six months for TPS holders in order to further assess the living conditions in Honduras. Salvadorans will likely hear in January if they have been granted an extension for TPS.

Taken together, 252,000 TPS recipients from Honduras and El Salvador have lived in the United States for over two decades. With the current administration debating their TPS renewal, thousands nervously await their fate in an uneasy limbo.

Both El Salvador and Honduras began receiving TPS after Hurricane Mitch caused widespread destruction in 1998. The countries continue to receive TPS due to rampant violence.

The U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning in January for Honduras stating, “With one of the highest murder rates in the world and criminals operating with a high degree of impunity, U.S. citizens are reminded to remain alert at all times when traveling in Honduras”. A similar warning for El Salvador was issued in February declaring, “El Salvador has one of the highest homicide levels in the world and crimes such as extortion, assault and robbery are common”.

We must question, if the U.S. government acknowledges the extreme violence in these countries, then why do they want to deport thousands of people to return to these dangerous conditions?

TPS was designed to protect people from living amidst extreme violence.

Honduras faces major corruption and impunity problems within the government and armed forces. During the 2015 presidential election, over 12 opposition candidates and activists were killed, and President Juan Orlando Hernández was linked to a social security embezzlement scheme. The police and army are known to be involved in drug trafficking and extortion. Fewer than 4% of homicides result in conviction, leaving very little hope for protection or justice for Hondurans. Journalists, human rights workers, land activists, and LGBQT persons are at highest risk of violence from gangs and authorities.

The rampant violence in El Salvador is chiefly due to the two of the largest gangs, MS-13 and 18th Street (both exported from Los Angeles). In the 2014 presidential election, the two major political parties, ARENA and FMLN were caught making deals with gang leaders in exchange for votes, highlighting the gangs’ political influence. Gangs have gained control over large portions of the country, and as a result tens of thousands of children have fled north, often unaccompanied, in order to avoid forced gang induction and violence. Police are attempting to crack down on gang-induced violence, causing an increase of lethal armed conflict and an upsurge of gang member and civilian deaths.

Unfortunately, we cannot reverse DHS’s decision to end TPS for Nicaragua, but there is still time and hope for the renewal of TPS for Honduras and El Salvador! Be proactive and call your legislators to urge them to support the renewal of TPS.

 

Up Next:

Country Highlight: Somalia and South Sudan – coming December 1st

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Country Highlight: Haiti

Part IV of a series on TPS

Missed the last blog?

 

The lives of 50,000 Haitians rest in the hands of the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke. Duke is responsible for granting the renewal of TPS for Haiti in January 2018. Her predecessor, John Kelly, clearly warned Haitians here under TPS to prepare to return home next year due to what he describes as the improving conditions in Haiti since the major earthquake in 2010.

We are here to ask, in light of subsequent natural disasters, a weak economy, and political instability, have the living conditions in Haiti actually improved enough to support the return of 50,000 citizens?.

Due to Haiti’s location in the Caribbean, it is extremely susceptible to natural disasters, which have repeatedly devastated the island, making for difficult living conditions. The World Bank estimates that 90% of the population is vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters.

Here is a brief chronology of natural disasters in Haiti, as reported in the New York Times:

May 2004: Heavy rain and excessive flooding displaced tens of thousands around the country and washed away villages.

September 2004: Hurricane Jeanne killed 3,000 and leveled the city of Gonaïves.

August & September 2008: Tropical storms Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike killed 800, and destroyed 60% of the country’s harvest.

January 2010: Two earthquakes (magnitude 7 and magnitude 6) killed 300,000, destroyed most of Port-au-Prince, and devastated the whole country.

October 2016: Hurricane Matthew killed 1,000, and left over 35,000 homeless.

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, which makes it increasingly difficult to rebuild after such repeated natural disasters. Roughly 80% of the population is living under the poverty line, and participate in the informal economy where they sell crops and livestock. These agricultural resources have been devastated almost routinely, due to natural disasters, resulting in huge economic losses for peasant farmers and forcing the country to become more reliant on imported food.

In addition to the natural and environmental challenges, the current political upheaval has not helped the grave economic situation. Jovenel Moïse faces weekly protest in Port-au-Prince and throughout the country in response to his proposed budget, which increases taxes and fees. The government has banned the protests led by civilians and has employed violence and intimidation in the hopes of crushing the demonstrations. Police were seen in Port-au-Prince firing tear gas, water cannons, and bullets into crowds of peaceful protesters. Armed civilians have taken to the streets to intimidate protesters in Pétion-Ville, just outside the capital. These protests have been occurring since mid-September, and show no signs of slowing down.

Up Next:

Highlight: Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras & El Salvador) – coming November 17th

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Humble Oneself and Take a Knee

Opinion piece by Mfon E. 

Growing up Catholic, I am used to the act of humbling myself by kneeling. And as a sports fan, especially for football, I know that “taking a knee” is a sign of respect for players who have gotten hurt. Whether in a religious or sports setting, kneeling is a reflection of community, humility, and respect.

When I recently attended a church service, the priest spoke about how we need to constantly humble ourselves by kneeling before God.  That statement made me think about the cries and complaints of those who are disturbed by the actions of athletes taking a knee to put a spotlight on the social injustices, specifically police killings of minority women, men, and children, especially in African-American communities. Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL player for the San Francisco 49ers, began this peaceful protest a year ago. Few  understood why he was kneeling during the anthem to protest racial discrimination and police killings. He’s a rich athlete; why should he care about the mistreatment of individuals being profiled and abused by racist cops?

Kaepernick cares and used his platform to express his concerns because if he weren’t in the NFL, if he didn’t have great athletic skills, if he weren’t rich, if he weren’t well-known, he would just be another “black man,” another problem for communities, another practice target for racist police officers. By taking a knee, Kaepernick decided to push aside worldly possessions and humble himself, before his teammates, his opponents, and the United States. His kneeling and the silence that accompanied it, have directed the public’s attention to the issues that are causing this protest. But the only thing critics are focused on is the kneeling and how he is not honoring his country. But, we must ask, how is his country honoring him? By killing people who look like him because they can?

The media and a handful of conservatives depict Kaepernick’s actions as disrespectful to U.S. soldiers. They make it seem as if you’re not honoring the country and those who fought for it if you fail to stand during the national anthem, but again, I ask, are they? Some of our veterans are homeless, and the way they are treated in Veterans’ Hospitals around the country is disgraceful. On top of that, the words of condolence that came out of the mouth of their Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump, to a now pregnant widow who lost her husband in battle were, “But you know he must have known what he signed up for.” How is that honoring soldiers who have fought and died for this country?

Those who have chosen to take a knee are humbling themselves for justice. If you were to watch a neighbor, friend, or family member, die by the hands of someone else, and that person (or institution) got away with it, would you not be overwhelmed with rage and sadness? By taking a knee, these individuals are screaming their rage with silence; they’re fighting without firearms. Some people say that discussing social issues at a sporting event is bad timing, so when is the right time? In our personal and professional lives when everything seems confusing and chaotic, sometimes we have to stop, think, drop to our knees, and humble ourselves to find inner peace, or pray to God (if you’re religious). We all need to take a knee and really look at this country we hold dear.

#SayTheirName

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Should TPS Be Extended?

Part III of a series on TPS

Missed the last blog?

President Trump was elected in part due to his hardline stance on immigration, such as promising the creation of a border wall and a crackdown on both legal and illegal immigration. Given this context, the Trump Administration’s proposal to end TPS is unsurprising.

This installment of the TPS series serves to layout the chief arguments for and against the TPS program.

 

Arguments to End TPS + Rebuttal

1. It is not so ‘temporary’:

Argument: Critics have pointed out that some TPS recipients have remained in the United States for over 20 years, and argue that their protection from deportation is no longer temporary. Such critics are under the impression that the U.S. government routinely and blindly renews TPS applications, regardless of the designated country’s current conditions.

Rebuttal: It is true that TPS recipients, particularly the ones who have been here for an extended period, often have built lives for themselves in the United States. Many have jobs, friends, and families – including children born here. TPS recipients do not necessarily have a home or economic opportunity to which to return, due to continued deteriorating conditions that make their home country unsafe to live in. The Department of Homeland Security regularly reviews living conditions in TPS-designated countries before extending TPS.

 

2. Conditions in designated countries have improved:

Argument: Americans argue that countries such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti, who received TPS due to natural disasters anywhere from 20 plus years ago have had ample time to recover and allow for the return of TPS individuals from the United States.

Rebuttal: Contrary to critics’ beliefs, most countries that have been receiving TPS for years are still not safe to return to. The Secretary of Homeland Security examines all possible reasons for TPS extension, including: a subsequent natural disaster, prolonged violence causing a power vacuum and political chaos, a health epidemic, etc. All of these conditions weaken the designated country’s economy making it impossible to adequately handle the return of TPS recipients.

 

3. TPS recipients hurt the U.S. economy:

Argument: TPS critics rally around steadfast anti-immigration claims, blaming TPS recipients for the United States’ economic woes, claiming that they take jobs from Americans and exploit America’s social service programs.

Rebuttal: In actuality, TPS recipients aid the U.S. economy. TPS recipients often hold jobs – meaning they pay federal, state, and local taxes, and spend their income at U.S. based businesses. Taken jointly, these factors mean that TPS recipients increase tax revenue and stimulate the economy.

 

While awaiting the Trump Administration’s decision on whether or not to extend TPS on a country-by-country basis, thousands feel as if they are stuck in limbo, and wonder where they will be in a few short months. To the question of whether TPS should be extended, compassion, reasonableness and sound judgment should guide this decision rather than bias and fear.

 

Up Next:

Country highlight: Haiti — coming November 3rd

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Reclaiming the Truth: Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Many of us we were taught in elementary school that Christopher Columbus was a brave Italian explorer who first discovered the Americas. We remember him as a hero and for this reason honor him with his own day, Columbus Day. However, this provides a white washed, ethnocentric version of United States’ history. Upon examining the true root of the holiday and the factual history, we discover Columbus Day celebrates, and honors the colonization of the Americas, and the genocide and ethnocide of the indigenous peoples. Columbus encouraged the enslavement and mass murder of indigenous peoples along his voyage and ‘discovery’ of the Americas. To ignore these atrocities by celebrating  Columbus Day, we also have to ignore the violent reality of European colonization, and devalue the indigenous populations within the Americas.

In the United States, states, cities, and universities throughout the nation have taken steps to pay homage to the indigenous peoples impacted by European colonization by celebrating an alternative to Columbus Day called, Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes that people were in the Americas before the land was ‘discovered ’ by Columbus, and that they were nearly erased from history after his arrival due to the spreading of diseases and violent repression. This movement to reclaim U.S. history with the truth by celebrating alternatives to Columbus Day, began in 1992 in Berkeley, CA in which the title Indigenous Peoples’ Day was coined on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival. Today, 4 states, 55 cities, and 3 universities celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Supporters of the alternative holiday also intend to draw attention to the fact that indigenous communities continue to be marginalized, discriminated against, and lack access to basic services in the United States.

Various Spanish speaking countries in Latin America have begun to celebrate Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) as an alternative to Columbus Day. Día de la Raza pays tribute to the Hispanic heritage of Latin America, and honors the countries that were brutally conquered by Europe. This celebration is also meant to remember and celebrate the peoples, cultures, and traditions suppressed by European explorers during a continuous and seemingly unending process of colonization that has lasted for centuries. As in the United States, Día de la Raza serves to promulgate the current challenges many indigenous communities continue to face in Hispanic and Latin cultures.

Although there are positive steps and actions being taken to factually rewrite our history, more still needs to be done. There are still 46 states, and numerous cities as well as universities throughout the United States that do not recognize any alternatives to Columbus Day. In doing so, they have chosen to silently accept and promote an ethnocentric version of U.S. history. On this day in particular, please support the recognition of indigenous peoples and their cultures. You can take small steps by not observing Columbus Day as a holiday and/or by sharing the true meaning of Columbus Day with at least one person. Another step you can take (on a larger scale) is to contact your mayor or congressional representatives requesting that your city or state celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

 

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Reclaiming the Truth: Indigenous Peoples' Day

Many of us we were taught in elementary school that Christopher Columbus was a brave Italian explorer who first discovered the Americas. We remember him as a hero and for this reason honor him with his own day, Columbus Day. However, this provides a white washed, ethnocentric version of United States’ history. Upon examining the true root of the holiday and the factual history, we discover Columbus Day celebrates, and honors the colonization of the Americas, and the genocide and ethnocide of the indigenous peoples. Columbus encouraged the enslavement and mass murder of indigenous peoples along his voyage and ‘discovery’ of the Americas. To ignore these atrocities by celebrating  Columbus Day, we also have to ignore the violent reality of European colonization, and devalue the indigenous populations within the Americas.

In the United States, states, cities, and universities throughout the nation have taken steps to pay homage to the indigenous peoples impacted by European colonization by celebrating an alternative to Columbus Day called, Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes that people were in the Americas before the land was ‘discovered ’ by Columbus, and that they were nearly erased from history after his arrival due to the spreading of diseases and violent repression. This movement to reclaim U.S. history with the truth by celebrating alternatives to Columbus Day, began in 1992 in Berkeley, CA in which the title Indigenous Peoples’ Day was coined on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival. Today, 4 states, 55 cities, and 3 universities celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Supporters of the alternative holiday also intend to draw attention to the fact that indigenous communities continue to be marginalized, discriminated against, and lack access to basic services in the United States.

Various Spanish speaking countries in Latin America have begun to celebrate Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) as an alternative to Columbus Day. Día de la Raza pays tribute to the Hispanic heritage of Latin America, and honors the countries that were brutally conquered by Europe. This celebration is also meant to remember and celebrate the peoples, cultures, and traditions suppressed by European explorers during a continuous and seemingly unending process of colonization that has lasted for centuries. As in the United States, Día de la Raza serves to promulgate the current challenges many indigenous communities continue to face in Hispanic and Latin cultures.

Although there are positive steps and actions being taken to factually rewrite our history, more still needs to be done. There are still 46 states, and numerous cities as well as universities throughout the United States that do not recognize any alternatives to Columbus Day. In doing so, they have chosen to silently accept and promote an ethnocentric version of U.S. history. On this day in particular, please support the recognition of indigenous peoples and their cultures. You can take small steps by not observing Columbus Day as a holiday and/or by sharing the true meaning of Columbus Day with at least one person. Another step you can take (on a larger scale) is to contact your mayor or congressional representatives requesting that your city or state celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

 

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)