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Journal of the Bahamas Historical Society, Volume 11 (October 1989)

by Dr. Davidson Hepburn

During the past months since my assumption of the post of Executive Director of the Quincentennial Commission, I have been amazed at the passion with which international individuals and Governments are discussing the Quincentennial. There are times when comments are negative and controversial, but it is, I believe, the positive enthusiasm which emanates, that will serve as the saviour of the Baha-main cause.

Several years ago, when the question of celebrating the Quincentennial was brought to the United Nations, it received a very hostile response from several countries that saw it either as a tribute to the evils of slavery or an attempt to resurrect a non-event; others were concerned about the lack of recognition of earlier explorers who may have very well been to the Americas before Columbus. Well as trite as it may seem, there is nothing that can change Columbus' landing here as the first. It needs to be (emphasised that remembering the occasion does not and cannot in any way nullify the barbaric acts that may have been perpetrated against the indigenous people. I do not believe that any Government is or should be celebrating or honouring Columbus, the man, he simply represents the person who made the significant event possible.

Our timely involvement in the commemoration of the landfall could put the theme 1992 and beyond into proper perspective, especially as it contributes to our national and cultural legacy and plans for the future. There have been several arguments regarding the accuracyof the landfall of Columbus and these no doubt would continue to grow. These divergencies merely make our project more challenging. Already, one of the positive outgrowths is the several different names which have come to depict Local Commisions such as Heritage and Discovery, the 500th Year of Discovery, the Quincentennial or Quincentenary and the Encounter of Two or Three Worlds. These reflect the vantage point from which respective Governments interpret the significance of or their involvement in any celebration or commemoration. The Bahamas should certainly have the upperhand as the place where it all began. The Commission, therefore, is compelled to incorporate this aspect into all phases of its work.

The point to keep in mind is that no matter what the handle, a significant event took place in 1492 and The Bahamas is the recipient of its miracle. In other words, the die has been cast. To not take advantage of this happening, putting it mildly, could only mean a lost opportunity thatwill not recur. Of course, it cannot be denied that since time immemorial there have been occasions, dates and reasons for celebrating and there is no indication the trend would be abolished. What is certain, however, is that a birthday of this magnitude only comes around every five hundred years.

Based on my findings, in this regard, Governments all over the world are seizing the opportunity to benefit from the event.


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