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Dominican Republic, Venezuela mark Columbus' discovery of Americas

Xinhua, October 13, 2015 Adjust font size:

Dominican Republic and Venezuela on Monday marked the mixed legacy of Christopher Columbus' accidental discovery of the Americas 523 years ago.

The Italian explorer's landing in the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492, in his search for a shortcut to the East Indies, expanded Europe's horizons and helped fuel the Renaissance, but also ushered in centuries of brutal colonial rule for Americas' indigenous civilizations.

Each year on this date, the marble mausoleum in the Dominican Republic where his remains reportedly reside is opened to the public.

The discovery not only revealed a new route toward the West, but also uncovered other ways of life, heritages and customs, said Marcelino Maria Lopez, the director of the Columbus Lighthouse, the monument in tribute to Columbus, the Dominican daily El Nuevo Diario reported.

In Venezuela, meanwhile, Oct. 12 has been known as the Day of Indigenous Resistance since 2002, "in memory of the struggle of these communities against the Spanish forces that came to kill off (the people) and plunder the region's wealth," Caracas-based news network Telesur said.

In a television program in 2003, Venezuela's late president Hugo Chavez, who changed the name of the holiday, said that European development can be attributed in large part to the pillaging of the New World's people and resources.

Historians estimate that some 100 million indigenous peoples lived in the Americas at the time of the conquest, and "only 150 years later, barely 3 million survived," the Venezuelan News Agency said.

On Monday, Venezuelan officials marked the day by paying tribute to Chavez and his recognition of the role of the continent's original inhabitants. Minister for Indigenous Peoples Clara Vidal, accompanied by the leader of the country's Wayuu Indian community, Aloha Nunez, and representatives of 40 indigenous groups, attended the event.

It is time to build a new society "atop the vestiges of colonialism" and build a free, independent, sovereign nation that belongs to the people, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro said at a ceremony held here. Endi