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Columbus Day 2021: History, How to Celebrate, Facts & More

Columbus Day History

Columbus Day marks the arrival of the Spanish explorer and navigator, Christopher Columbus in America on October 12, 1492. It is celebrated worldwide on the second Monday of October. This year the day will be observed on October 11. Some countries even celebrate Columbus Day on October 12 according to the old calendar.

Over the years, Columbus Day has gained a controversial stance. With many opposing it, a few also mark it as the day of the discovery of a new world.

Columbus Day History

As our schoolbooks hold that Christopher Columbus was a great explorer who found America, history gives us a different opinion. Marked as a celebration of the Italian-American heritage, Columbus Day has always been very controversial.

According to reports, there were millions of Europeans already living in North America before Columbus reached and the first people to sail across the Atlantic were Viking explorers from Scandinavia.

It was already occupied by indigenous people, who were said to be the discoverers of America. Thus, there has been a contradiction in calling this day Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The first Columbus Day was held in San Francisco in 1869 to celebrate the American-Italian heritage. In 1907, the first state-wide celebration was held in Colorado. In the United States, Columbus Day became a holiday in the year 1937. After this, Columbus Day has been celebrated every year on the second Monday of October since 1971.

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The day is also referred to as Dia De La Raza (Day of the Race) in Latin America and other Latin communities.

There is a huge debate over the celebrations of Columbus Day as it is believed that the arrival of Europeans led to the demise of Indigenous peoples’ heritage and culture and a large number of native people were killed. Columbus was seen more like an invader than an explorer.

People also argue that Columbus should not be given the credit of exploring North America as he never reached mainland America but only to some islands in the Caribbean.

Who was Christopher Columbus?

Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who made four voyages from Spain in the year 1492, 1493, 1498, and 1502. Though he started his journey in order to find a direct route from Europe to Asia, he never managed to reach there. Instead, he stumbled upon America. Though he is called the founding father of America, this fact has been controversial since it is believed that already millions of people were inhabited there. His journey is considered to be the advent of exploration and colonization of North and South America.

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Columbus formed Spain’s first colony in Hispaniola with 39 men. He returned to Spain in 1493 with gold, spices, and Indian captives. He also made several sails across the Atlantic before his death in 1506.

How is Columbus Day Celebrated?

Columbus Day is celebrated differently in several ways all across the United States and Europe.

United States of America: Columbus Day is celebrated in several ways in America. California and Hawaii don’t observe the arrival of Columbus but they pay tribute to the original cultures and conduct a powwow feast. In Hawaii, they celebrate it as Discovery Day.

Colombia: The day is called Dia De La Raza in Colombia, it is more of an observance day there. Schools, offices, and federal organizations are open on this day. School children are taught about how America was discovered.

Venezuela: They celebrate it as an opposition day and call it Dia De La Resistencia Indigena (the day of the Indigenous Resistance). A group of Indians call it the day of genocide of their culture, heritage, and people. A 100-year-old statue of Columbus was destroyed in 2004 to mark the day.

Chile: It is called Dia De Descubrimiento Entre Dos Mundos (Day of Discovery Between Two Worlds). This day is celebrated on the second Monday of October since 1923 in Chile.

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Spain: Spain celebrated this day as Fiesta De La Hispanidad (Hispanic Celebration) and honors the varied diversity and culture of the Hispanic community across the globe.

Mexico: Mexicans celebrate their indigenous and cultural heritage to mark the day of Columbus Day.

Columbus Day Facts

  • Columbus was not the first person to let everyone know the world is round. It was already known to some well-educated Europeans.
  • Columbus had three ships: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, but nobody is aware of what happened to Nina and Pinta. He lost Santa Maria in his first voyage itself but Pinta returned safely and was lost later. The Nina continued to sail but was never tracked back after 1501.
  • Columbus was arrested during his tenure as a governor in Hispaniola as he and his brothers were involved in mass killings.
  • Columbus’ son sued the Spanish government as his family was not offered the sum that was to be given to them after his demise in 1506.
  • States like Florida, Hawaii, Alaska do not celebrate Columbus Day and celebrate it as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead.
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