Visiting Christopher Columbus’ Tomb Was a Buzzkill
I loved traveling to Spain, but the veneration of a colonizer gave me a wake-up call about my identity
Columbus Day weekend happened to fall during my three-week trip to Seville. Spain is a country that has become a yearly stop for me. Despite there being many places in the world to explore, the country’s rich culture, expansive cuisine, and new friends have inspired me to return again and again. I’ve experienced Spain as a married woman, a solo traveler, a former vegetarian, and a writer. But this time was different.
My boyfriend came with me for the first week of the trip, and since it was his first visit to Seville, he wanted to see some of the popular tourist sites. We wandered the gardens with Moorish influences at the Real Alcázar and experienced a sunset at Plaza de España. We then proceeded to the Cathedral of Seville, the third-largest cathedral in Europe. The ceilings were high and the altars impressive.
It’s also home to Christopher Columbus’ tomb — well, one of his tombs. Being at the home of this shrine to Columbus on a holiday named after him didn’t sit well with me. As an American of Dominican descent, I thought about my birth mother, abuela, and relatives who have experienced the effects of Columbus’ landing generations after he arrived on the island of Hispaniola. As I thought of this, the audio guide in my ear dictated Columbus’ “achievements” that resulted from his transatlantic “discovery.” The more I saw people taking photos of his tomb, the less connected I felt to it and the space as a whole. Instead, my mind became numb. For the first time, I felt a wall between me and Spain.
The first five months of my life were spent on the island of the Dominican Republic with my birth mother and abuela after I was born in the U.S. Stories of me in my baby outfits do not register because I was so young. From the age of nine, I was a ward of the state, and my two brothers and I were all put into foster care.
As a foster child of Dominican descent who was raised by White parents, I didn’t have any Latinos or women of color in life growing up. The small New England mill town where I was raised was devoid of diversity, and much of my experience there was feeling…