Columbus Day in Spain and the Americas: Memory Wars in Transatlantic Perspective

Alejandro Baer, University of Minnesota

This paper reflects on the public discussion around removal or resignification of Columbus statues and Columbus Day celebrations in Spain and the Americas over the last decade. These sites of memory have become symbolic battlegrounds of morally loaded political debates around national identity, cultural sovereignty, and reparative justice. The ubiquitous presence of the Genovese explorer – as a commemorative day and/or monument – on both sides of the Atlantic poses a paradigmatic legitimation problem in the “guilty era” of the “politics of regret” (Olick, 2007). How do the different but often overlapping foci of the past that Columbus represents (discovery, encounter, evangelization, genocide, etc.) coexist and clash in the public sphere? What interests and opportunities are driving these interventions and which carrier groups are demanding and opposing the removal of statues and the renaming of the October 12th celebration? This paper highlights the distinct and contradictory features of the post-colonial perspective in its nostalgic and condemnatory form.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 38. Politics of Nostalgia