AS we’ve always done for all our lives, Saint Lucians on December 132016 celebrated yet another a dubious ‘National Day’ holiday — on a date with no root or place in our nation’s history.
That being the date of Feast of (Catholic Patron Saint of the Blind) Saint Lucy, the Europeans who wrote our history claimed Christopher Columbus, who saw the island on that date, chose to name it after her.
But, as retired engineer and critical thinker John Peters noted in his VOICE article of 17 December 2016 entitled The inaccuracies of Saint Lucia, there have been so many inaccurate claims about who named Saint Lucia and when, which European country claimed it at the time (French, Portuguese or Spanish) and what the first name was (Sancta Lucia or Santa Luzia).
As I do every year at this time, I again raise the issue of our continuing contradictory addiction to celebration of a most important national holiday without reason – and our shameless creation of equally meaningless excuses to continue doing so.
December 13 was for long time before Independence celebrated here as ‘Discovery Day’, as, we were taught, Columbus ‘discovered’ the island on 13 December 1502. ‘Columbus Square’ was therefore named after the Italian explorer.
But Columbus’ own diaries have proven he never saw Saint Lucia, instead recording him as being near ‘El Dorado’ on that date — on the north-eastern shoulder of the South American mainland.
By his own account, then, Columbus lied – and was lied about for centuries. But rather than dispense with the traditional holiday celebration of a date found to have had no real historical (or actual) purpose, ‘Discovery Day’ was simply rechristened ‘National Day’.
‘Columbus Square’ was also belatedly renamed Derek Walcott Square, only after the acclaimed local poet won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.
Successive governments since independence in 1979 have shied away from even considering erasing this historical Columbus lie in Saint Lucia by removing the legitimacy afforded December 13 as a national holiday. The date was instead given yet another added replacement title –‘Festival of Lights’, adopted from Sweden, where the original festival takes place on that date.
Yet, all the allocated titles notwithstanding, Saint Lucia still has the dubious title of being the only country in the world to have both a National Day (December 13) and an Independence Day (February 22) — none of which has anything to do with its history!
Interestingly, so strong was the traditional historical national holiday held on December 13 that it took several years after Independence in 1979 before February 22 (a date also pulled out of a cork hat in London during the formal Independence negotiations) was eventually declared a national holiday.
To do so, the government had to create a new space in the crowded list of officially recognized ‘National Holidays’ and ‘Holy Days’, doing away with the ‘The Queen’s Birthday’ holiday, which had continued to be observed here after Independence.
However, while the island remains reluctant to come to terms with erasing a historical lie, Saint Lucians are possibly on the verge of joining the rest of the world in erasing and correcting an even bigger Columbus lie — and perhaps the biggest of all.
Documents and maps on hand today in China and Europe claim that Chinese navigators passed through South America and the Caribbean much earlier than Columbus — in 1421, seven decades before the Italian explorer claimed he saw Santo Domingo in 1492.
Liu Gang, a Chinese corporate lawyer, has for 15 years been showing around a 1763 map he says proves the claim. Copied from an earlier one dated 1421, it bears an inscription by the original author describing it as “A sketch of the world made during the sixteenth year of the reign of Yong of the Ming Dynasty (1418)…”
Liu’s aged map is the first of its time to show the earth as being round. Its main features of the continents are also very detailed, with near-accurate precision.
Liu thus confidently said in 2005: “This map proves that Zheng He (1371-1433), commander of the Ming fleet, discovered America, the North Pole and the South Pole, and sailed around the world before 1418.”
In August 2005, an exhibition was held at the National Museum of Beijing about the feats of Admiral He and displaying proof of the great expeditions he led.
Each trip, according to the displays, was made between 1404 and 1433, each lasting two years and each comprising up to 100 ships and more than 20,000 men. The expeditions eventually toured 35 countries in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
In late 2005, Liu read a book entitled 1421 – The Year China Discovered the World. It was written by a European navigator he’d never met – and from its contents the lawyer reaffirmed his conviction that his map is the best evidence of He’s exploits
The book, issued two years earlier in 2003, is by Gavin Menzies, a former British Royal Navy submarine captain and astrologer with a world of modern experience crossing the oceans by the stars.
Menzies also has an early map of the world he purchased in Venice, dated 1424 – three years after Liu’s. It too shows geographical data, including islands, territories and profiles of the eastern American coasts.
In 2006, 500 years after Columbus died, the maps and documents in Liu’s and Menzies’ hands separately offered common and distinct possibilities that it was not the Italian explorer, or his European successors, who led the expeditions that drew the earliest maps of the world.
Europe is dead silent on their claims — and most likely wouldn’t ever want them proven true. But Menzies and Liu have together developed a joint Media Plan of Action that has already attracted the attention of naval historians, cartographers and astrologers, researchers and archivists.
In January 2006, Liu’s map was featured at Britain’s National Navy Museum in Greenwich. That same month, the complete history of the map was also revealed in The Economist magazine, in an article also indicating the matter should be taken seriously.
Menzies has also taken the issue to his website: http://www.1421.tv (in English and Spanish, Chinese and Polish).
Five hundred and eleven years after Columbus died, Caribbean (and South American) journalists, in pursuit of true world history, now have a unique chance to be part of history in the making.
If Liu and Menzies are right, then this historic first China-South America-Caribbean engagement is quickly approaching 600 years. The Caribbean and South American media should therefore use the next five years to 2021 to help the region’s people – and the rest of the world — learn more about what has been mostly unknown globally for close to six centuries.
This is a global issue. All of humanity has particular interest in determining the truth about Europe’s claim that the Italian explorer and his successors ‘discovered’ a ‘New World’ for the King and Queen of Spain through a series of unprecedented voyages of discovery starting in 1492.
Never mind the Europeans meeting people in these parts when they first landed, the original natives they met were called Caribs and Arawaks — and described as less-than-human, warring cannibals, feasting on rival tribes.
They also destroyed the advanced civilizations they found in The Americas, paved the way for slavery and Indentureship, transplanting Africans and Indians to new worlds of forced labour and Europeans to new lands conquered.
More and more proof continues to emerge that our history was not written for our benefit, but to give Europe a place in Caribbean, South American and world history it didn’t earn.
The press in Saint Lucia, the Caribbean and all of South America therefore have a prime role to help find out the truth, the whole truth — and nothing but the truth – about the volumes of lies taught us at school (and to the rest of the world) by European historians, for all of more than five decades.