October 12th: Columbus Day
by Elaine Gallagher The first celebration to honor Christopher Columbus took place in Barcelona, Spain, in 1493. Following his voyage across the Atlantic and […]
The first celebration to honor Christopher Columbus took place in Barcelona, Spain, in 1493. Following his voyage across the Atlantic and back again, Columbus rode on a beautiful white horse at the head of a parade beside King Ferdinand. Because he failed to bring back gold and spices, however, there were no parades after Columbus’ second, third, and fourth voyages. In fact, nearly three hundred years went by before another big Columbus Day celebration took place on October 12, 1792 in New York and Maryland.
In Mexico and most other Latin American countries, this day is celebrated as the Dia de la Raza, Day of the Race, though some countries celebrate it under other names. In the 15th century, Christopher Columbus thought he had found a new and shorter route to India, which was a trading partner of many countries in Europe. It took him eight years to convince Queen Isabella of Spain to finance his journey. He left with three small ships: La Niña, La Pinta, and La Santa Maria. And on October 12, 1492 he landed on an island in the Bahamas, thinking he was in India.
Archaeological finds have proven that America was discovered long before Columbus arrived, but he was the first one to establish real contact between the American continents and Europe. He claimed the new land in the name of the Spanish monarchy. Thirty years later in 1522, Mexico was conquered by Hernan Cortes and became a colony of Spain for the next 300 years. The Spanish conquistadors brought missionaries with them, and although Spain imposed its government and religion, the people of Mexico intermarried and many native traditions have survived.
Mexico today is a mixture of the Spanish and the indigenous. We call that new race and that new culture mestizo. And that is what we celebrate on October 12th, Dia de la Raza. In the U.S.A. Columbus Day is often celebrated on the Monday closest to the 12th in order to give a long weekend.