A Holiday of Many Names
Christopher Columbus (or Cristóbal Colón, as he is known in Spanish) first reached the Americas on October 12, 1492. Today, this historic moment is commemorated in many different ways across the globe.
- In Spain, October 12th is often called the Día de la Hispanidad, although the official public holiday is the Fiesta Nacional de España. Spain's national holiday falls on the same day as its Armed Forces Day, which is observed with a large military parade in Madrid. In Zaragoza, October 12 is also the day of Our Lady of the Pillar. The colorful Fiesta del Pilar is one of Spain's most famous and popular festivals.
- In the United States, October 12th is known as Columbus Day. Curiously, this day is recognized largely thanks to the influence of Italian-Americans and their immigrant ancestors. This is because Columbus originally came from Genoa, Italy. Many Latin American communities in the U.S. celebrate this day under the name El Día de la Raza. In recent years, some states and cities have decided to celebrate Indigenous People's Day instead of Columbus Day.
- In Mexico and much of Latin America, October 12th is known as the Día de la Raza and is an occasion for celebrating Pre-Columbian cultures.
- In 1994, Costa Rica created the Día de las Culturas to celebrates the contributions of the country's indigenous, Spanish, African, and Asian cultures.
Across Latin America, October 12th is celebrated under many names in addition to Día de la Raza and Día de la Hispanidad, including
- Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity in Argentina
- Decolonization Day in Bolivia
- Day of Interculturality and Plurinationality in Ecuador
- Day of Indigenous Peoples and Intercultural Dialogue in Peru, and
- Indigenous Resistance Day in Venezuela.
- October 12th is not recognized as a holiday in Cuba.
As we can see, October 12 can be a controversial holiday, and the legacy of Columbus and the Hispanic identity is complicated. Maybe we should keep in mind how "hispanidad" is defined in the Dictionary of the Royal Academy of Spanish or RAE:
1. f. A generic character of all the people that speak the Spanish language and relate to Hispanic culture.
2. f. Group and community of Hispanic people.
Once again, it is language that unites us.