STATESIDE STORIES: Columbus Day Musings

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Observance of Columbus Day has become quite controversial. According to some
activist groups, the situation of Native Americans and the peoples of Latin
America went terribly downhill after his arrival in the New World.

But that opinion is by no means unanimous.

 

By Mary Foran

 

October 12th is officially “Columbus Day” in most U.S. states, since it was declared a Federal Holiday in 1937, although Americans had celebrated the day since the colonial period.

As everyone knows, Christopher Columbus was an Italian navigator born in Genoa, Italy, who obtained funding for his voyages West from Queen Isabella la Catolica in Spain. He is credited with the discovery of the Americas on October 12, 1492, with his ships which schoolchildren memorize as “La Nina”, “La Pinta” and the “Santa Maria”. (Other nationalities have also claimed the discovery of the Americas!)

Columbus Day parade, NYC

Paraguayans in a  Columbus Day parade, NYC,

Observance of Columbus Day, called for on the second Monday of October, has become quite controversial, since, according to some activist groups, the situation of Native Americans and the peoples of Latin America went terribly downhill after his arrival in the New World.

Many countries in Latin America have renamed the day “Dia de la Raza” and “Dia de la Hispanidad”. In Spain, it has become a “Fiesta Nacional”, coinciding with the religious festival of “La Virgen del Pilar”.

In Italy, the day is celebrated as the “Giornata Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo”. Italians the world over see it as a remembrance of their cultural heritage.

Here are some fun facts about the day:

  • In the U.S.A., the states of Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, and South Dakota do not celebrate Columbus Day officially at all.
  • Since the year 2000, October 12th has also been Spain’s “Day of the Armed Forces”, with a military parade held in Madrid.
  • In Canada, “Thanksgiving” is held on the same day!
    In the Pacific Northwest and B.C. area, many people still remember the Columbus Day Storm, October 12th, 1962, which started out as Typhoon Freda in the Pacific Ocean, and which uprooted trees with 116 miles per hour wind gusts.
Columbus Memorial Fountain, Washington, District of Columbia

Columbus Memorial Fountain, Washington, District of Columbia

We all remember the little ditty we were taught in school: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue!” but so many experts have assailed Columbus’ claim of Discovery that few know what is truth and what is legend.

However, Spain did play a large part in his explorations, and a great river in the West was named after him ( The Columbia) and Washington, District of Columbia, the capital city of the USA, bears his name as well.

History is full of contradictions and controversies, which sometimes are difficult to clear up in the modern era we live in now.

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Images
Knights of Columbus Memorial on Columbus Day by Montgomery County Planning Commission PA, CC BY-SA2.0
Paraguayans in Columbus Day parade by Jorbasa Fotografie, CC BY-ND2.0
Columbus fountain by Juan Llanos, CC BY-ND2.0