Columbus Day, is observed to celebrate the discovery of the Americas by the European explorer Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492. Columbus with his 90 men intended to voyage from Spain to reach India - an abundant source of spices and rare goods. After sailing for weeks, they reached land on October 12 to Hispaniola, North America.
What seemed to Columbus as a new route to Asia, was, in fact, the gateway to South and North America. Presently, Columbus Day is celebrated each year on the second Monday of October.
In the late 15th century, King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain agreed to send Columbus on an expedition to India via his proposed way of sailing west from Spain. He set sail in August 1492 on three boats - the Santa Maria, the Nina and the Pinta. Columbus and his men found land after five weeks of sailing on October 12 and thought it to be a new route to India. This however, was not a route to India but the newly found Americas.
Other names of Columbus Day -
Columbus day is celebrated in various countries in the continents of America. The other names to this day are -
Día de la Raza (Day of race) in Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Spain, Chile and Mexico.
In 2002, Venezuela changed it to Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance).
Spain called this day Día de la Hispanidad (Hispanity Day) from 1957. In 1987, the day came to be known as Fiesta Nacional (National Day).
Observance as a holiday -
People of U.S.A celebrated the 300th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in 1792. President Benjamin Harrison brought ’Columbus Day’ into being on the 400th anniversary.
In U.S.A, Columbus Day was celebrated as an official state holiday in Colorado up till 1906 and was made an federal holiday in 1937.
In Argentina, the day was first celebrated in 1917, Mexico in 1921, Venezuela and Colombia in 1921 and Chile in 1922.
Columbus day is celebrated with long parades in many cities of different countries. New York City holds one of the largest celebrations annually with a Columbus Day Parade. Parades are also held in Chicago and Denver. Latin American countries put emphasis on their heritage and ancestry through celebrations on this day. Columbus day celebrations also tend to get controversial as Columbus’ actions are attributed as the cause for the death of numerous native people because of the Europeans settled in the Americas. It is also said that the European settlement lead to dilution of the history and culture of the Americas.