13 October 2004

Venezuela: "The Day of Indigenous Resistance"



Columbus' Tomb Opened on Anniversary


SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) -

Roman Catholic officials opened a tomb said to contain the remains of
Christopher Columbus as part of an annual ceremony Tuesday, a day
after the Dominican government denied a Spanish request to conduct
DNA tests to determine which country has the navigator's true

Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez, who holds the only key to the
heavily guarded tomb, allows it to be opened every year to mark
Columbus' arrival in the present-day Bahamas on Oct. 12, 1492.

A marching band played the Dominican national anthem while a dozen
armed sailors positioned themselves around the tomb. As they marched in formation, one sailor yelled: "This is where Adm. Columbus rests."

But the day took on a different tone in Venezuela, where
representatives of the country's Indian groups urged the removal of a
Columbus statue in a Caracas park, while protesters destroyed such a
statue to protest the alleged "genocide" of South America's natives
under colonial rule.

Five people were arrested after dozens used ropes to pull down the
bronze statue of Columbus in Caracas' Plaza Venezuela and then spray-painted graffiti reading: "Columbus Equals Genocide" and "The
Resistance Continues!" on the statue's foundation.

President Hugo Chavez, who is wildly popular among Indians, signed a
decree in 2002 changing the name of Venezuela's Oct. 12 Columbus Day to "The Day of Indigenous Resistance." Joined by indigenous leaders from across the country, Chavez attended ceremonies to commemorate the national holiday on Tuesday.

Some have raised doubts about the claim that Columbus' remains are in the Dominican Republic.

Researchers in Spain studying genetic evidence from bone slivers
reportedly belonging to Columbus and two relatives said earlier this
month that preliminary data suggests the Italian explorer might have
been buried in the Spanish city of Seville, not the Dominican

Both Seville and Santo Domingo have monuments to the man who led
Europeans to the Americas.

During Tuesday's ceremony the Rev. Rafael Bello held up a large steel
key for about 200 government officials, diplomats and tourists to
see. As he opened the doors of the tomb, fighter jets and helicopters
flew over the monument. It was opened in 1992 to mark the 500-year
anniversary of Columbus' first voyage.

With its doors removed, visitors looked through two layers of thick
glass and saw an oblong, 3-foot-long lead box containing the remains.
In keeping with custom, no one was permitted to see the actual bones.

"It's so exciting to see this opened," said Fernanda Badoer, a 29-
year-old accountant visiting from Argentina.

Spanish researchers have been petitioning the Dominican government
for two years to do DNA tests.

But Sulamita Puig, the country's deputy culture secretary, said on
Monday that she didn't think DNA testing had advanced far enough to
definitively settle the dispute.

Spanish Ambassador Maria Jesus Figa Lopez, attending the tomb
ceremony, said she wouldn't appeal because she doubted the truth
could be determined.

"I'm skeptical given the poor state of the remains," she told
reporters. "And no matter where Columbus is buried, both Seville and
Santo Domingo will continue to have their monuments."

Mario Bonetti, president of the Dominican Science Academy, said he
was pressing the Dominican government to change its mind. "The only
way to prove we have Columbus is to do the DNA tests," Bonetti said.


Post a Comment

<< Home