Today, October 10th is Columbus Day in the United States. For most people that means a day off work. Many of us don’t really think about the reason behind a much-needed holiday or a four-day working week. But Columbus was a pretty big deal. In fact, apart from being an intrepid explorer, Columbus actually discovered our great nation. Let’s take a closer look.
The New World
Columbus Day commemorates Christopher Columbus’ landing in the New World on October 12, 1492. All those years ago, the first European to set foot upon our shores arrived. But if Columbus landed on October 12th, why are we celebrating Columbus Day on the 10th? Well, Columbus Day is celebrated the second Monday of October. Although this day was recognized in a number of states in the 18th Century, it wasn’t until 1937 that Columbus Day became a federal holiday in the US.
A Controversial Celebration
The discovering of America as we know it today is not without its controversy. After all, Italian born and Spanish-backed explorer did not simply set foot on new land, take pictures and leave. In fact, he returned from his very first mission bearing gold, gems, spices and Indian captives.
Many Native Americans, with the support of other groups, have protested over the celebration of an event that caused the death of millions. Not only were many innocent people subject to torture, slavery or warfare, but European settlers also brought many infectious diseases along with them. Smallpox and influenza wiped out entire populations.
Dìa de la Raza (“Day of the Race”)
Many Latin American countries, including Colombia and Argentina have traditionally celebrated Columbus Day as Dìa de la Raza (“Day of the Race”) to recognize Hispanic Culture’s roots and history. In Venezuela in 2002, the day was changed to Dìa de la Resistencia Indìgena (“Day of Indigenous Resistance”) to recognize the native peoples and the atrocities they suffered. And in fact, just recently in Vermont and the city of Phoenix, Columbus Day has been changed to “Indigenous People’s Day” as a mark of respect.
Typical Columbus Day Celebrations
Whatever you choose to call this day, you can join in a local celebration in your home town or city. Celebrations range from street fairs and processions to reenactments and dances. Check out what’s going on in your city online, or just enjoy not working this Monday. But spare a thought for the innocent people caught up in America’s discovery.