Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer, started his voyage on August 3, 1492, and reached the new land on October 12. Today we know this area as Bahamas, although it is not exactly clarified on which island did he land.
It is recorded that in the early United States, already in 1792, this important event has been celebrated. However, it was first announced an official state holiday in 1907 in Colorado. In 1934, in response to a request of the Congress, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a proclamation that designated October 12 as Columbus Day, which had to be observed with fair respect and appropriate ceremonies according to schools, churches or other places. The holiday became federal in 1968 thanks to the efforts of the National Columbus Day Committee. Its date has been changed to the second Monday of October in 1971.
Most businesses, federal agencies, schools and banks are closed that day. Different states, however, observe the holiday in various ways, or even do not observe at all. States that do not recognize Columbus Day, such as Florida, Maine or parts of California, often replace it with other celebrations, for example Indigenous People’s Day or Native American Day. The largest celebration of Columbus Day, including a huge parade, can be observed in New York.
Many countries of Latin America also celebrate the holiday under different names: Discovery Day, Day of the Race, Day of the Americas, or Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity. Because of Columbus’s origins, the celebration commemorating his discovery is also observed in Italy as Giornata nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo. Spain has also celebrated the anniversary of discovering Americas for many years, yet this practice is starting to decline year by year.
Celebrating Columbus Day is also criticized in some communities because of the way Europeans treated indigenous populations during their settlement in the “New World”. Many native Americans died in that time, so it is often argued that Columbus’s actions should be celebrated today. The holiday is also criticized because of the character of the Italian explorer, who is said to have exploited and enslaved the indigenous people.
Did you know?
Columbus had four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, but none of them brought him to North America. He discovered the land that we know today as Bahamas, Caribbean islands, South America and Central America.
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