Columbus Day - October 14, 2013
Columbus Day is a holiday celebrated in many countries in the Americas, commemorating the date of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World on October 12, 1492. Similar holidays, celebrated as Dia de la Raza (Day of the Race) in many countries in Latin America, Dia de las Culturas (Day of the Cultures) in Costa Rica, Discovery Day in the Bahamas, ''Hispanic Day'' in Spain, and the newly-renamed (as of 2002) ''Dia de la Resistencia Indigena'' (Day of Indigenous Resistance) in Venezuela, commemorate the same event.
United States observance
List of Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of Italian-American heritage. Columbus Day was brought about as a U.S. national holiday by a lawyer-son of Genovese immigrants coming around-the-horn who built ranches in the 1850s along the Sierra Foothills. As the Gold ran out, these "Cal-Italians" were from the Alpenino hills, skilled and able to prosper as self-sufficent farmers in this natural environment. San Francisco has the oldest Columbus Day celebration in San Francisco dating back to 1869. This lawyer then moved to Colorado to live. Here, the first state celebration was in Colorado in 1905 (where there was Genovese miners), and in 1937, at the behest of the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic fraternal service organization named for the voyager), President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set aside Columbus Day as a Holidays of the United States. Since 1971, the holiday has been commemorated in the U.S. on the second Monday in October, the same day as Thanksgiving in neighboring Canada.
Italian-Americans feel pride in the day due to the fact that Christopher Columbus, an Italian sailor, sailed to America and opened the world to a new era. But what is to be understood is what the role of Amerigo Vespucci, the banking representative for the DeMedici family of Florence, schooled in Renaissance science, played behind the scenes. Columbus traveled to many royal courts pleading for financial backing. After several tries with other courts, Spain eventually financed the ships for Columbus' brainchild. Other Americans are embittered by this victory for Columbus because of the ensuing genocide of Native Americans after Columbus' arrival. But is this just a simple conclusion, instead of a planetary understanding the how tribalism and clans are challenged by the expansion of transportation systems and new technology. Remember, the horse did not exist in America until the Spanish invasion. In the United States, Banks and Federal government of the United States are closed on Columbus Day, as well as many of the offices at the Italian embassy in Washington D.C. and the various ''Italian'' consulates throughout the United states of America.
Dia de la Raza
The date of Columbus' arrival in the Americas is celebrated in Latin America (and in some Latino communities in the USA) as the ''Dia de la Raza'' ("day of the race"), commemorating the first encounters of Europe and Indigenous peoples of the Americas. The day was first celebrated in Argentina in 1917, Venezuela in 1921, Chile in 1923, and Mexico in 1928. The day was also celebrated under this title in Spain until 1958, when it was changed to the "Dia de la Hispanidad." In Spain, the "race" of reference in the original name was that of the Spanish people and did not reflect the mestizo characterization found in many Latin American countries.
In 2002, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela changed the name to Dia de la Resistencia Indigena (Day of Indigenous Resistance).
Opposition to Columbus Day
In the state of Minnesota, Columbus Day is not celebrated, because many people in Minnesota believe that Vikings arrived in North America (and specifically in Minnesota, see Kensington Runestone for details) before Columbus. However, in 2006, city offices in Minneapolis were closed, as well as libraries across the Twin Cities
Some people oppose Columbus Day, claiming his achievements are not worthy of a holiday. The modern-day legend of Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America is due to Washington Irving. His "biography" of Columbus, a dramatic and embellished account, was so popular it became accepted as fact in the English speaking countries. However, in the Spanish speaking countries Columbus' crossing of the Atlantic is widely accepted as the first contact between the two civilizations (European and native American) and additionally proved that the maritime technology was there to do it frequently. Historically, Columbus was not the first to discover America, nor was he the first European to land in America, though he was the first European to successfully bring European culture to the Americas. There is also controversy surrounding the treatment of the native people of the Americas by Columbus and by Spanish conquistadors.
In recent years, the holiday has been rejected by some people who view it as a celebration of conquest and genocide by the Spaniards. In its place, Indigenous Peoples Day is sometimes celebrated. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, "Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands Friendship Day" is celebrated on the same day as Columbus Day, due to the controversy surrounding the atrocities committed against the indigenous peoples of the present-day Caribbean during the Spanish colonization of the New World. In the state of South Dakota, the day is officially a state holiday known as "Native American Day", not Columbus Day.
Some have argued that the responsibility of contemporary governments and their citizens for allegedly ongoing acts of genocide against Native Americans are masked by positive Columbus myths and celebrations. These critics argue that a particular understanding of the legacy of Columbus has been used to legitimize their actions, and it is this misuse of history that must be exposed. Thus, Ward Churchill (an associate professor of Native American Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado|Boulder, and a leader of the American Indian Movement), has argued that certain myths about Columbus, and celebrations of Columbus, make it easier for people today to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions, or the actions of their governments.
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