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October 12th and Columbus Day

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived in America, perhaps he wasn’t the first European to do it (we all know the store about Vinland of the Vikings or the theory that attributes the discovery to an English sailor called Amerike) but the one we celebrate on this date is precisely the day that the small Spanish fleet arrived in Guanahani (San Salvador).

In Spain it is known since 1981 as “Hispanidad Day” (Hispanic Day) due to the discovery; but it is also the day of Virgen del Pilar* and the day of the Armed Forces Parade, which is why so many Spanish people have trouble associating October 12 with this historical event.

However in South America this day is commemorated as “Day of the Race”, “Discovery Day” and “Day of the Americas”…

Christopher Columbus

It all started in 1913, when the president of the Ibero-American Union Faustino Rodríguez-San Pedro chose October 12 to celebrate the union between Spain and Latin America. In 1914 the first “Spanish Race Holiday” was celebrated in Casa Argentina in Malaga. Three years would go by until it was celebrated in Madrid. Finally in 1918 it became a national holiday in Argentina.

Little by little the rest of the Spanish speaking countries partook in the holiday that is currently a subject of debate. What is being celebrated? The beginning of a conquest that in most cases ended up in the destruction of precious pre-Columbine civilizations? Or is it really an event for twinning and getting closer among cultures? The matter still gives a lot to talk about.

Curiously Hispanic Day is not only a holiday in the countries closest to Hispanic culture. In U.S.A it is called “Columbus Day”, even if it is not actually celebrated on the 12 but on the second Monday of October. In 2011, it will take place on October 10th.

“Columbus day” began as a state holiday in 1906 and it became a national holiday in 1937. However there are historians that allege that already by 1792 the tercentenary of the discovery of the recently emancipated United States was celebrated. Better documented is the commemoration of the fourth centenary, encouraged by president Benjamin Harrison, in which all sorts artists and intellectuals participated. As a curious anecdote will tell you that many Italian-Americans have this day as the day of their legacy. Wee must not forget that Columbus was of Genovese origin.

In light of these facts, we would like to say that history or politics aside, what is really celebrated is that the World became larger that day.

(*Many virgins are worshipped in different regions of Spain, for instance: Virgen del Pilar in Zaragoza, Virgen del Rocío and Virgen de la Macarena en Sevilla, Virgen de la Paloma and so on. It may be confusing, but in the end it’s the same Virgin Mary with different names!)

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