Friday, October 12, 2012

October 12 marks the birth of a cosmic race

New York Italians in Monday's Fifth Avenue parade celebrated the deed of their compatriot Christopher Columbus on this date half a millenium ago. Indeed, October 12, 1492, was the beginning of a cosmic race.

That date was the start of the mestizaje* (or blending of human colors and ethnicities), today most evident in the lands the Spanish once ruled, into the universal human descent from which all Americans, both U.S. Americans as well as those from the other nations of the American continent.

You can see the new cosmic race in the Afro-Czech children of Chicago, their peer Indo-Hispanics of Bogotá and Luso-Japanese of Sao Paulo.

The year 1492 marked the unexpected, sudden and painful clash of very different social cultures, the European and American Indian; to them, by force, the Africans were added. Today we know that they were three branches of a forgotten common family.

Europeans and Native Americans had in common the Asian steppes. From there, some had migrated toward the sunset into Europe and then across the Atlantic. Others set off to the sunrise to Mongolia, then across the Bering Strait. Both had come from India, from the Asian Mesopotamia and, even earlier, from the universal human cradle in Africa, home also to the Americans whose forebears were tragically kidnapped and enslaved.

Add to them the Chinese who built the railroads of North America and Panama Canal, the Japanese who brought fisheries to Peru and from ancient India the governors of Louisiana and North Carolina.

Some might dispute details of my history and prehistory; others might argue that there are three Americas (North, Central and South), not merely one. Still, the essential idea that I have sketched with a broad-leaded pencil persists.

We are all fraternal kin, of one common humanity, who rediscovered each other in the one "New World" continent that runs from the Strait of Magellan in southern Argentina and Chile to the Arctic Ocean north of Canada and Alaska.

Sure, there is much to correct and remedy. Notably, those of European origin, among whom I count myself, have been cruel to our human kin. Nevertheless, the great epic migration to the continent of America cradled and gave the first footing to the restoration and expansion of a new human fraternity.

In 1904, for example, Haiti gave the world the first republic led by Africans and in 1969 an American man took the first human steps beyond our planet, on the moon.

Today marks the universal kinship that is the future of the great American cosmic race.

* In reflecting on mestizaje and the "cosmic race" I acknowledge my intellectual debt to theologians Virgilio Elizondo of San Antonio, Texas, and Gustavo Gutierrez of Lima, Peru.

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