It is probably the most important day for all those of us that share the Hispanic culture, apart from being a turning point in the History of mankind: on October 12th, 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived to what was a unknown continent until then; he had arrived to America.
This is the basic fact that the visitor arriving to Spain or any Spanish American country must know: this is a day of celebration, but one could say that its philosophy and even meaning can vary from one country to another. Here are some examples:
In Spain it is celebrated the so-called “Hispanity Day”, although it is also known as “National Feast”: the Spaniards usually know it as the day of the Parade, because on this date takes place a big army parade in the country’s capital. In the city of Saragossa they also celebrate the patron Virgin of the city, the Virgin of El Pilar. Let’s say that the commemoration of the Discovery was a bit forgotten, but thanks to the immigrant population from South America this is changing.
In Mexico it is called “The Day of the Race”, and its meaning has changed over time: from a fiesta that celebrated the cultural syncretism resulting from the “union” of the indigenous and Hispanic cultures, it nowadays serves as a reaffirmation of the pre-Columbian cultures.
In the United States they celebrate Columbus Day in a great variety of ways, but to many the most eye-catching is the one taking place in New York City, which consists of a parade in which the Italian colony has great prominence (don’t forget that Columbus was original from Genoa). Some have even dubbed this date the “Italian Saint Patrick’s Day”, but the growing Hispanic community is making that perception change.
In Costa Rica it was organised in 1968 as the Day of the Discovery and the Race, but from 1994 on it is considered the Day of the Cultures. During the day there are events in which the indigenous, Caribbean and Spanish contribution to the country’s culture is recognised.
In Colombia they know it as “Day of the Race”, but it is not a very relevant celebration. In any case, schools organise small plays in which the discovery is remembered.
Argentina was the first country to celebrate the Day of the Spanish World (in 1917), but with time it has turned into a day in which there is more and more prominence of some collectives that ask for it to be denominated the Day of the Resistance of the Original People, for the fight against the invader would have started the same day that Columbus set his foot on the island of Guanahani.
In Venezuela it also happens like in Argentina, because since 2002 the 12th of October has been designated the Day of the Indigenous Resistance.
As you can see the term “Hispanity” is controversial, and even more so in those countries that struggled with sweat, blood and tears for their independence from a decadent and dying empire. What to us it might sound as “brotherhood”, others might interpret as “tyranny”. Should we then redefine the term? Those are matters beyond our reach, but we sure would like to think that it will end up being a term that designates the common elements of our culture, and not a long forgotten past.
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