Members of MEChA, Yale's Mexican-American student organization, gathered in yesterday's early-morning chill to chalk anti-Columbus Day slogans on Cross Campus and Old Campus walkways.
Group members met at Old Campus's High Street gate at 1:30 a.m. to protest the celebration of Columbus Day. After a brief meeting, students dispersed to scrawl such messages as "Celebrate the survivors," "Rethink Columbus Day," and "Whose holiday is it?" across campus.
Emotions ran high as members of Movimiento Estudantil Chicano de Aztlan lined stone pathways all over campus with their messages.
"If we had come to your home, stolen your land, made you speak our language, and raped and murdered your family, would you celebrate our coming?" Danielle Garcia '96 said.
Other MEChA members said their primary aim was to refute the perception of Christopher Columbus as a hero. "Why are we celebrating the deaths of 20 million? Why celebrate Columbus? It's not right that this country celebrates the legacy of a murderer," Anna Maria Garza '97 said as she worked on a chalking.
"Columbus did not discover this country. How could he have found a land that had been inhabited for centuries? It makes no sense," Garza added.
Several students walking on Cross Campus yesterday morning questioned the relevance of the slogans.
"It's difficult for me to see the connection between the present social problems of our country and the fact that a holiday is named after an explorer who is now perceived as evil," Tom Piernikowski '99 said. "He may or may not have been, but what is taking away Columbus Day going to do for the country?"
Others who saw the campus chalkings responded more
positively to the messages they represented.
"I think it is important that people see that there are two sides to this issue. I think it will create a dialogue that will hopefully be meaningful," Randolph Cardona '99 said as he walked across Old Campus.
Members of the group said their main goal was to spark discussion of the holiday. "We're expecting a lot of reaction and a lot of shock. People who think this is just empty social protest are wrong," Alegria De La Cruz '97 said. "We've done a lot to promote awareness of our group and our issues. The important thing is that we get a dialogue going and we educate people."
Other members of the group proposed an alternative to Columbus Day, advocating a celebration of racial unity -- Dia de la Raza Cosmica (Day of the Cosmic Race).
"Dia de la Raza Cosmica is a celebration of the coming together of the two races, to form one, the cosmic race," said one MEChA member who did not wish to be identified. "It emphasizes that there is a real mix of peoples and cultures, not just European dominance."
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