October 12 marks the anniversary of the day in 1492 when Christopher Columbus’s expedition made landfall in the Caribbean, specifically in The Bahamas. although the explorer believed he has reached India.This date is celebrated in Many countries in the New World and elsewhere as the anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus’ in the Americas, as an official holiday. The landing is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Día de la Raza in many countries in Latin America, as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, as Día de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional in Spain, as Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) in Argentina, as Day of the Americas in Belize, and as Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas) in Uruguay. These holidays have been celebrated unofficially since the late 18th century, and officially in various areas since the early 20th century.Columbus Day first became an official state holiday in Colorado in 1906, and became a federal holiday in the United States in 1937, though people have celebrated Columbus’ voyage since the colonial period. In 1792, New York City and other U.S. cities celebrated the 300th anniversary of his landing in the New World. President Benjamin Harrison called upon the people of the United States to celebrate Columbus Day on the 400th anniversary of the event. During the four hundredth anniversary in 1892, teachers, preachers, poets and politicians used Columbus Day rituals to teach ideals of patriotism. These patriotic rituals were framed around themes such as support for war, citizenship boundaries, the importance of loyalty to the nation, and celebrating social progress.Many Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage, the first occasion being in New York City on October 12, 1866. Columbus Day was first enshrined as a legal holiday in the United States through the lobbying of Angelo Noce, a first generation Italian, in Denver. The first statewide Columbus Day holiday was proclaimed by Colorado governor Jesse F. McDonald in 1905, and it was made a statutory holiday in 1907. April 1934, as a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made October 12 a federal holiday under the name Columbus Day.Since 1970, the holiday has been fixed to the second Monday in October, coincidentally the same day as Thanksgiving in neighboringCanada. It is generally observed nowadays by banks, the bond market, the U.S. Postal Service, other federal agencies, most state government offices, many businesses, and most school districts. Some businesses and some stock exchanges remain open, also some states and municipalities abstain from observing the holiday. The traditional date of the holiday also adjoins the anniversary of the United States Navy (founded October 13, 1775), and thus both occasions are customarily observed by the Navy (and usually the Marine Corps as well) with either a 72 or 96-hour liberty period.
Actual observance varies in different parts of the United States, ranging from large-scale parades and events to complete non-observance. Most states celebrate Columbus Day as an official state holiday, though many mark it as a “Day of Observance” or “Recognition” and three do not recognize it at all. Most states (including states where it is not a legal holiday) close schools and other state services, while others operate as normal. San Francisco claims the nation’s oldest continuously existing celebration with the Italian-American community’s annual Columbus Day Parade, which was established by Nicola Larco in 1868, while New York City boasts the largest. As in the mainland U.S., Columbus Day is a legal holiday in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. In the United States Virgin Islands, the day is celebrated as both Columbus Day and “Puerto Rico Friendship Day.Virginia also celebrates two legal holidays on the day, Columbus Day and Yorktown Victory Day, which honors the final victory at theSiege of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War. Some States such as Hawaii, Alaska, and South Dakota do not recognize Columbus Day at all, though Hawaii and South Dakota mark the day with an alternative holiday or observance. Hawaii celebrates Discoverers’ Day, which commemorates the Polynesian discoverers of Hawaii on the same date, the second Monday of October though the name change has not ended protest related to the observance of Columbus’ discovery. The state government does not treat either Columbus Day or Discoverers’ Day as a legal holiday; state, city and county government offices and schools are open for business. South Dakota celebrates the day as an official state holiday known as “Native American Day” rather than Columbus Day. Iowa and Nevada do not celebrate Columbus Day as an official holiday; however, the governor is “authorized and requested” by statute to proclaim the day each year In Nevada, this probably has less to do with any objection to the celebration of the day than the fact that it is relatively close to Nevada Day, and schools and banks can only be closed for so many day. Several other states have removed Columbus Day as a paid holiday for government workers while still maintaining it either as a day of recognition or a legal holiday for other purposes. These include California and Texas. The city of Berkeley, California has replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day since 1992, a move which has been replicated by several other localities including Sebastopol, Santa Cruz and Dane County, Wisconsin. South Dakota renamed the holiday “Native American Day”.Various tribal governments in Oklahoma designate the day “Native American Day”.
The date Columbus arrived in the Americas is also marked in many countries in Latin America. The most common name for the celebration in Spanish (including in some Latin American communities] in the United States) is the Día de la Raza (“day of the race” or “day of the [hispanic] people”), commemorating the first encounters of Europeans and Native Americans. The day was first celebrated in Argentina in 1917, Venezuela and Colombia in 1921, Chile in 1922, and Mexico in 1928. The day was also celebrated under this title in Spain until 1957, when it was changed to the Día de la Hispanidad (“Hispanity Day”), and in Venezuela until 2002, when it was changed to the Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance). Originally conceived of as a celebration of Hispanic influence in the Americas, as evidenced by the complementary celebrations in Spain and Latin America, Día de la Raza has come to be seen by some in Latin America as a counter to Columbus Day; a celebration of the resistance against the arrival of Europeans to the Americas and of the native races and cultures. In the U.S. Día de la Raza has served as a time of mobilization for pan-ethnic Latino activists, particularly in the 1960s. Since then, La Raza has served as a periodic rallying cry for Hispanic activists. The first Hispanic March on Washington occurred on Columbus Day in 1996. The name has remained in the largest Hispanic social justice organization, the National Council of La Raza.
Between 1921 and 2002, Venezuela celebrated Día de la Raza along with many other Latin American nations. The original holiday was officially established in 1921 under President Juan Vicente Gómez. In 2002, under president Hugo Chávez, the name was changed to Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance) to commemorate the Indigenous peoples’ resistance to European settlement. On October 12, 2004 a crowd of pro-government activists toppled the statue of Christopher Columbus in Caracas and sprayed allusive graffiti over its pedestal. The pro-Chávez website Aporrea wrote: “Just like the statue of Saddam in Baghdad, that of Columbus the tyrant also fell this October 12, 2004 in Caracas. Since 1994, Costa Rica had changed the official holiday from Día de la Raza to Día de las Culturas (Day of the cultures) to recognize the mix of European, American, Africanand Asian cultures that helped to compose Costa Rican (and Latin American)Since 1987, Spain has celebrated the anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas as its Fiesta Nacional or “National Day”.Previously Spain had celebrated the day as Día de la Hispanidad, emphasizing Spain’s ties with the Hispanidad, the international Hispanic community. In 1981 a royal decree established the Día de la Hispanidad as a national holiday.However, in 1987 the name was changed to Fiesta Nacional, and October 12 became one of two national celebrations, along with Constitution Day on December 6.Spain’s “national day” had moved around several times during the various regime changes of the 20th century; establishing it on the day of the international Columbus celebration was part of a compromise between conservatives, who wanted to emphasize the status of the monarchy and Spain’s history, and Republicans, who wanted to commemorate Spain’s burgeoning democracy with an official holiday. Since 2000, October 12 has also been Spain’s Day of the Armed Forces, celebrated each year with a military parade in Madrid. Other than this, however, the holiday is not widely or enthusiastically celebrated in Spain; there are no other large-scale patriotic parades, marches, or other events, and the observation is generally overshadowed by the feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar (Fiestas del Pilar).