In response to Columbus Day, UCSB student organization El Congreso has dedicated this week to a celebration recognizing the pre-colonization natives of North America while at the same time condemning Monday’s holiday.

Group chair Lucia Diaz said the association is organizing its Indigenous Resistance Week to offer students and faculty concerned with early colonizers’ alleged atrocities a different event to commemorate. According to its Web site, El Congreso is an inclusive group comprised of 15 subcommittees that aims to encourage pride among Chicanos and Latinos.

“What we’re doing this week is providing an alternative awareness week to Columbus [Day],” Diaz said.

El Congreso external co-chair Teresa Vargas said the event, which is based on Venezuela’s Día de la Resistencia Indígena, or the Day of Indigenous Resistance, has been observed at UCSB for the past two years in hopes of educating others about the discovery of the New World and the aftermath of colonization.

In 2003, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez asked that Native and Latin Americans stop celebrating Columbus Day, arguing that his discovery opened the doors to later Spanish explorers and genocide against natives.

“The main idea is to resist the fact that Christopher Columbus just discovered America,” Vargas said. “There was also genocide of indigenous people.”

According to Diaz, the main goal of the group’s efforts is to pay homage to the cultural and territorial hardships America’s native people faced centuries ago when European explorers reached their lands.

“We wanted to acknowledge the resistance and the struggle the indigenous people went through,” Diaz said.

According to Vargas, the week’s activities have thus far garnered some support and interest from students.

“It showed that people are out there who agree with our goal of these events,” Vargas said.

However, when informed of El Congreso’s agenda, some students said the campaign was confusing. Second-year psychology major Fernando Magana said he had no way of knowing whether his ancestors even had contact with early explorers.

“I’m not even aware if I’m affected by that situation,” Magana said. “[El Congreso] should make their point more clear.”

Diaz said El Congreso is currently attempting to collaborate with several other on-campus groups to assist in broadening the group’s message to the entire university population.

Protesta y Apoyo Zapatistas is a campus organization that supports the Zapatistas, a resistance movement in southern Mexico. PAZ joined forces with El Congreso this week, helping with Tuesday’s spray-painting of yellow shirts in front of the Arbor.

Vargas said it offers the descendants of people who encountered early European settlers an opportunity to combat the widely accepted image of Columbus as a hero.

“Christopher Columbus is not a god,” Vargas said. “For people to idolize him isn’t good.”

El Congreso is currently drafting a proclamation for Chancellor Henry T. Yang to review, in hopes of officially establishing the second week of October as Indigenous Resistance Week on campus in the future for those who choose not to observe Columbus Day.

The remainder of Indigenous Resistance Week includes political activities every day, including a film screening on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in El Centro, Building 406, a social event at the same location on Thursday at 6 p.m. and a closing rally in Storke Plaza at noon on Friday.