Columbus Day celebrates the landing of Christopher Colombus in the Americas on October 12, 1492. The holiday was celebrated every October 12, but this was changed in 1971. Columbus Day is now celebrated annually on the second Monday in October. It was adopted as a public holiday by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934. But in 1991, Native American supporters created a counter-celebration celebrated every second Monday in October named Indigenous Peoples Day, which gained followers. these last years.
Americans have been celebrating the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ landing since at least 1792. During the latter half of the 1800s, October 12 was celebrated in cities with large numbers of Italian Americans. Since Columbus was Italian, they wanted to honor his achievement.
The 500th anniversary in 1992 has made some people think about the meaning of the holiday. Many Americans oppose Columbus Day. They believe that the arrival of Columbus and other Europeans led to the mistreatment of Native Americans.
In Latin America, the landing of Christopher Columbus is observed under the name of Día de la Raza (“Race Day” or “People’s Day”). It is a celebration of the culture that has developed over the centuries as indigenous cultures mingled with Spanish culture.
• Christopher Columbus was a Genoese explorer and adventurer known for leading a Spanish expedition to discover new trade routes to India.
• The Spanish monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, funded his trip after believing his suggestion to sail west to reach Asia might be fruitful. Their eagerness to find a new route was prompted by the Turkish blockade of the only known trade route from Europe to Asia and vice versa.
• While Spain was left behind, Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal was already funding trips for the same reason.
• On August 3, 1492, after his negotiations with the Catholic Monarchs, Columbus sailed west from Palos, Spain, crossing the Atlantic.
• Three ships, namely Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria, and over 90 men were under his command.
• On October 12, 1492, Columbus reached an island he assumed to be part of Asia, but which was in fact the Bahamas of today. For months he explored the islands surrounding San Salvador (name he gave the Bahamas) which is now part of the Caribbean.
• In March 1493, he returned to Spain leaving 40 of his men at La Natividad, the first Spanish colony he would later find devastated.
• A total of four voyages to the Caribbean were made by Columbus until 1504. He died two years after his fourth voyage.
• States like South Dakota, Hawaii and Alaska do not recognize Columbus Day.
• Another faction believes that Christopher Columbus directed violence and destruction against Native Americans, creating a counter-celebration: Indigenous Peoples Day or Native American Day, also celebrated every other Monday in October.
• They suggest that honoring Columbus is offensive to many Native Americans as he opened up European colonization in the Americas, which resulted in the extinction of indigenous populations like the Arawaks and Tainos.
• Another argument was that Columbus paved the way for the slave trade that lasted for centuries.
• On October 22, 1991, the city council of Berkeley, California, officially adopted Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time as a replacement for Columbus Day. A year later, it was the year of the fiftieth anniversary of Columbus, marking the 500th anniversary of his arrival in the Americas.
• The idea of celebrating the heritage and contribution of Native Americans was declared at the First International NGO Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas held in 1977, in Geneva, Switzerland.
• However, Columbus Day was still celebrated in the following years. In 1984, US President Ronald Reagan commemorated Columbus with these words: “This great explorer won a place in history and in the hearts of all Americans because he challenged the unknown and thus found a New World.”
• Critics of Columbus stressed that he should not be honored after bringing slavery, disease and death to the Caribbean when he colonized the islands for the Spanish crown.
• According to the Smithsonian Magazine, it was Columbus who initiated the slavery of the Taino people to work in the gold mines when he became governor of Hispaniola.
• In addition, natives over 14 were forced to work to work in the gold mines where they had to meet a certain quota. If they didn’t, their hands would be cut off.
• Francisco de Bobadilla is the one who investigated and proved the rumors of tyranny and abuse of Columbus and his brothers in Hispaniola. In response to Bobadilla’s report, Columbus and his brothers were sent back to Spain and jailed for six weeks, but King Ferdinand I pardoned him and he managed to set off on another trip.
• Some critics also argue that the celebration of Columbus Day is irrelevant since he was not the first European to set foot in the Americas. Aside from the Vikings, John Cabot already settled and claimed present-day Canada for England in 1497.
• Among Columbus’s early critics was the Spanish Dominican brother, Bartolomé de Las Casas, who became known as the Defender and Apostle of the Indians. Las Casas ‘father and grandfather were among the people who joined Columbus’ early voyages. In 1502 he personally visited Hispaniola and began to document everything in his diary.
• In Las Casas’ Short Story on the Destruction of the Indies, he protests against the excesses of Spanish colonization in the Americas.