Columbus Day

Columbus Day is a national holiday in many countries of the Americas and elsewhere which officially celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492 (Julian Calendar; it would have been October 21, 1492 on the Gregorian Proleptic Calendar, which extends the Gregorian Calendar to dates prior to its adoption in 1582).

Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who set sail across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a faster route to the Far East only to land at the New World. His first voyage to the New World on the Spanish ships Santa María, Niña, and La Pinta took approximately three months. Columbus and his crew’s arrival to the New World initiated the Columbian Exchange which introduced the transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations, and technology (but also invasive species, including communicable diseases) between the new world and the old.

The landing is celebrated as “Columbus Day” in the United States but the name varies on the international spectrum. In some Latin American countries, October 12 is known as “Día de la Raza” or (Day of the Race). This is the case for Mexico, which inspired Jose Vasconcelos’s book celebrating the Day of the Iberoamerican Race. Some countries such as Spain refer the holiday as “Día de la Hispanidad” and “Fiesta Nacional de España” where it is also the religious festivity of la Virgen del Pilar. Peru celebrates since 2009 the “Day of the original peoples and intercultural dialogue”.

Belize and Uruguay celebrate it as Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas). Since Argentina’s former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner officially adopted “Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural” (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) November 3, 2010. “Giornata Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo or Festa Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo” is the formal name of Italy’s celebration as well as in Little Italys around the world.

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