This article was last updated on May 30th, 2020
Columbus Day has been observed in parts of the United States, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Costa Rica, parts of the Caribbean and also parts of Europe.
In many of those countries, a genuine attempt has been made to correct history, by acknowledging the pain and suffering of indigenous people in those regions.
In some cases, the name of the holiday has changed. In other cases, the holiday has been scrapped altogether.
Why Do We Celebrate Columbus Day? The day is a Federal Holiday and is celebrated on the second Monday of October every year and is the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. It is recognized as Columbus Day in the United States. However, there are variations to what it is called in various parts of the world.
Why Do We Celebrate Columbus Day in the United States
58 Percent of Us Still Honor Christopher Columbus
Just this year, the state of New Mexico did away with Columbus Day celebrations, in favor of a holiday that honored Native Americans. There is a definite shift in sentiment within the United States but it is not happening fast enough for left-leaning politicians or even for Native Americans.
A recent Rasmussen Report reveals that 58 percent of adult Americans, who completed a telephone survey, believe that Columbus Day should still be celebrated and honored. That is probably enough to keep the change agents at bay for now.
There is the sentiment that a large segment of that group surveyed was unlikely to change its mind on the subject because it was brought up by a generation that had opted to and preferred to immortalize Christopher Columbus. Younger people might think differently.
Americans celebrate Columbus Day because a joint resolution was taken by the United States Senate and the House of Representatives in June 1892. Following the approval of this resolution, Congress officially recognized what it termed the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America.
The staunch critics will point out – and we will tap into this in greater detail below – that there actually was no discovery. America was already there and people were already living there.
Nevertheless, it was only in 1934 that Columbus Day was first recognized as an official holiday in the United States. Columbus Day is a celebration of the completed centuries of modern American life, which is why it remains most relevant to the people of the United States.
Columbus Day Celebrations Around the World
Columbus Day in Italy
Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, now a major city in Italy. He died in Valladolid, which is now a major city in Spain. His resting place is in the Seville Cathedral.
It therefore probably stands to reason that his cultural significance will be felt in both Italy and Spain, probably more so in Spain. The vast majority of the Latin American countries now speak Spanish and some
Columbus Day in Portugal
Interestingly enough, Columbus Day has only officially been celebrated in Italy since 2004, although there have been other forms of recognition for the Columbus exploratory achievements before that.
Columbus Day in Spain
Spain has been celebrating the achievements of Christopher Columbus since 1987 on what they refer to as their National Day.
Why not earlier than that, we might ask? Well, before the National Day was established, Spaniards used to recognize the Día de la Hispanidad, which was a celebration of the Hispanic world or community.
Columbus Day in Argentina
The people of Argentina first honored Christopher Columbus in 1916, when they established the Day of the Race. Most Spanish speaking countries had adopted this title for the holiday, more commonly referred to as the Día de la Raza.
That was scrapped in 2010, under the administration of President Cristina Kirchner, who declared it the Day of Respect of Cultural Diversity. In addition to that, the statue of Columbus was removed from the Argentine Presidential residence.
Columbus Day in Colombia
Colombia has become famous for a considerable amount over the years, most of which is not good.
It is also the only country in the world, where the name originated from Christopher Columbus himself. Depending on which side of the political spectrum you sit, that could be a contentious issue in itself.
In that country, they celebrate El día de la Raza y de la Hispanidad, which represents an encounter of the two worlds. That takes the sting off the fact that Columbus is still celebrated in Colombia, as it is an attempt to celebrate racial diversity in that country which has been plagued by so many other ghastly problems. That is to say, this celebration is not about the dominance of one culture over another.
Columbus Day In Peru
In Peru, like the United States, there is a celebration of The Day Of The Discovery Of America. There is no ambiguity about it. It is a Latin celebration or a celebration of the Latin world and Latin achievement.
Columbus Day In Venezuela
Venezuela first celebrated Columbus Day in 1921. However, that tradition was brought to a halt in 2002 under Hugo Chavez, which set the wheels in motion for significant change in parts of South America. They used to celebrate Día de la Raza.
Now it is known as the day of Indigenous Resistance or Día de la Resistencia Indígena. It is largely a matter of principle but also out of respect for those cultures which were eroded and erased by the Latin invasions in the region.
Columbus Day in Costa Rica
In 1994 Costa Rica also abandoned the celebration of Christopher Columbus and rather embraced the Day of the Encounter of Cultures.
The Voyages of Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus is famous for four journeys in particular. It is the first of those journeys that remains most pertinent to this discussion. At 2 am on October 12, 1492, he and his crew came across some land somewhere near the Bahamas.
The exact island “discovered” by Columbus remains the subject of debate but many contend that Columbus bumped into Watling’s Island, now known as San Salvador, that morning. Please note that we have not spoken about a discovery.
When Columbus arrived, there were already people living there. The sighting was made after the ship crews spotted a huge flock of birds and decided to subsequently follow them. Those birds led them to what we now know to be the Bahamas. The local Taino people actually called the island in question Guanahani – a name that was totally disregarded by their European visitors.
That arrival set in motion a series of events that would see the erosion of local identity, as Catholicism swept through the Americas. A religion that was heavily influenced by the arrival of immigrants from Ireland and Italy.
It is a development that was not even really welcomed by large sections of the United States either, which was at the time a protestant country. Well, it still is. At various stages in history, since that first arrival, there has been opposition to the celebration of Columbus Day.
There are traces of opposition that date as far back as the 19th century. In those days, most of that opposition centered around the spread of the Catholic faith to that region. However, in modern times that opposition centers around the impact that Columbus and his arrival had on the indigenous tribes of the Americas.
Despite the voices of opposition to the celebration of Columbus Day, especially from groups representing Native American tribes, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that most people still recognize the day, in one form or the other.
Why Do We Celebrate Columbus Day? Final Thoughts
Regardless of future changes to celebrations around the world of Columbus Day, it can not be argued that Christopher Columbus and his accomplishments will be remembered and celebrated in some way in our futures.
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