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.
The landing is celebrated as "Columbus Day" in the United States, as
"Día de la Raza" ("Day of the Race") in some countries in Latin
America, as "Día de la Hispanidad" and "Fiesta Nacional" in Spain,
where it is also the religious festivity of la Virgen del Pilar, as
Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas) in
Belize and Uruguay, as
Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural
Diversity) in Argentina, and as Giornata Nazionale di Cristoforo
Colombo or Festa Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo in
Italy as well as
in Little Italys around the world. As the day of remembrance of
Our Lady of the Pillar, 12 October had been declared a religious feast
day throughout the
Spanish Empire in 1730; the secular Fiesta de la
Raza Española was first proposed by Faustino Rodríguez-San Pedro y
Díaz-Argüelles in 1913.
United States observance
1.2 Local observance of Columbus Day
Latin American observance
2.1 Día de la Raza
2.5 Costa Rica
6 Opposition to Columbus celebrations
7 See also
9 External links
United States observance
Stylized graphic from the
United States Department of Defense
Celebration of Columbus's voyage in the early
United States is
recorded from as early as 1792, when the Tammany Society in New York
City (for whom it became an annual tradition) and also the
Massachusetts Historical Society
Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston celebrated the 300th
anniversary of Columbus' landing in the New World. President
Benjamin Harrison called upon the people of the
United States to
celebrate Columbus's landing in the
New World on the 400th anniversary
of the event. During the anniversary in 1892, teachers, preachers,
poets and politicians used rituals to teach ideals of patriotism.
These rituals took themes such as citizenship boundaries, the
importance of loyalty to the nation, and the celebration of social
Many Italian-Americans observe
Columbus Day as a celebration of their
heritage, and the first such celebration was held in New York City on
October 12, 1866. The day was first enshrined as a legal holiday
United States through the lobbying of Angelo Noce, a first
generation Italian, in Denver. The first statewide holiday was
Colorado governor Jesse F. McDonald in 1905, and it was
made a statutory holiday in 1907. In April 1934, as a result of
lobbying by the
Knights of Columbus
Knights of Columbus and New York City Italian leader
Generoso Pope, Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
proclaimed October 12 a federal holiday under the name Columbus
Since 1971 (Oct. 11), the holiday has been fixed to the second Monday
in October, coincidentally exactly the same day as Thanksgiving in
neighboring Canada fixed since 1957. It is generally observed nowadays
by banks, the bond market, the U.S. Postal Service, other federal
agencies, most state government offices, many businesses, and most
school districts. Some businesses and some stock exchanges remain
open, and some states and municipalities abstain from observing the
holiday. The traditional date of the holiday also adjoins the
anniversary of the
United States Navy (founded October 13, 1775), and
thus both occasions are customarily observed by the Navy (and usually
the Marine Corps as well) with either a 72- or 96-hour liberty
Local observance of Columbus Day
Columbus Day in
Salem, Massachusetts in 1892
Actual observance varies in different parts of the United States,
ranging from large-scale parades and events to complete
non-observance. Most states celebrate
Columbus Day as an official
state holiday, though many mark it as a "Day of Observance" or
"Recognition" and at least four do not recognize it at all. Most
states that celebrate
Columbus Day will close state services, while
others operate as normal.
San Francisco claims the nation's oldest continuously existing
celebration with the Italian-American community's annual Columbus Day
Parade, which was established by Nicola Larco in 1868, while New
York City boasts the largest, with over 35,000 marchers and one
As in the mainland U.S.,
Columbus Day is a legal holiday in the U.S.
territory of Puerto Rico. In the
United States Virgin Islands, the day
is celebrated as both
Columbus Day and "
Puerto Rico Friendship
Virginia also celebrates two legal holidays on the day, Columbus Day
and Yorktown Victory Day, which honors the final victory at the Siege
of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War.
The U.S. states of Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, South Dakota, and Vermont
do not recognize
Columbus Day at all; however, they mark the day with
an alternative holiday or observance.
Hawaii celebrates Discoverer's
Day, which commemorates the Polynesian discoverers of
Hawaii on the
same date, the second Monday of October, though the name
change has not ended protest related to the observance of Columbus's
discovery. The state government does not treat either Columbus Day
or Discoverer's Day as a legal holiday; state, city and county
government offices and schools are open for business. Similarly, in
Vermont started celebrating
Indigenous Peoples' Day
Indigenous Peoples' Day instead of
Columbus Day. Because this change was made by Governor Peter Shumlin's
executive proclamation, it only applies for 2016. In the future it
would have to be issued by the sitting governor on a yearly basis, or
officially changed by the legislature in order to become
permanent. On the other hand,
South Dakota celebrates the day as
an official state holiday known as Native American Day. Until
Oregon did not recognize Columbus Day, either as a holiday or as
a commemoration; schools and public offices remained open.
However, on Columbus Day, 2017,
Kate Brown renamed the
holiday "Indigenous Peoples' Day," to remember these cultures and
commemorate the struggles of native peoples during European
colonization. Two additional states,
Iowa and Nevada, do not
celebrate it as an official holiday, but the states' respective
governors are "authorized and requested" by statute to proclaim the
day each year.
Several other states have removed the day as a paid holiday for
government workers while still maintaining it either as a day of
recognition, or as a legal holiday for other purposes. These include
California and Texas.
The city of Berkeley, California, replaced
Columbus Day with
Indigenous Peoples' Day
Indigenous Peoples' Day in 1992, a move which has been followed by
multiple other localities including Sebastopol and Santa Cruz,
California; Dane County, Wisconsin; Seattle, Washington; Missoula,
Montana; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Denver, Colorado; Phoenix, Arizona;
Los Angeles, California; Austin, Texas; and Salt Lake City,
Utah. Various tribal governments
in Oklahoma designate the day Native American Day, or name it after
their own tribe.
Latin American observance
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Día de la Raza
Argentine government poster from 1947 including the concept of la
The date Columbus arrived in the
Americas is celebrated in some
countries of Latin America. The most common name for the celebration
in Spanish (including some
Latin American communities in the
United States) is the Día de la Raza ("day of the race" or the "day
of the [Hispanic] people"), commemorating the first encounters of
Europeans and Native Americans. The day was first celebrated in
Argentina in 1917, in
Colombia in 1921, in
1922, and in Mexico, it was first celebrated in 1928. The day was also
celebrated under this title in
Spain until 1957, when it was changed
to the Día de la
Hispanidad ("Hispanicity Day"), and in
was celebrated under this title until 2002, when it was changed to the
Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance).
Originally conceived of as a celebration of Hispanic influence in the
Americas, as evidenced by the complementary celebrations in
Latin America, Día de la Raza has come to be seen by indigenous
Latin America as a counter to Columbus Day; a
celebration of the native races and cultures and their resistance to
the arrival of
Europeans in the Americas.
In the U.S. Día de la Raza has served as a time of mobilization for
pan-ethnic Latino activists, particularly since the 1960s. Since then,
La Raza has served as a periodic rallying cry for Hispanic activists.
The first Hispanic March on Washington occurred on
Columbus Day in
1996. The name is still used by the largest Hispanic social justice
organization in the nation, the National Council of La Raza.
The Day of the Race was established in
Argentina in 1916 by a decree
of President Hipólito Yrigoyen. The name was changed to "Day of
Respect of Cultural Diversity" by a Decree of Necessity and Urgency
1584/2010 issued by populist President Cristina Kirchner. Instigated
by then Venezuelan president Chávez, she had the statue of Columbus
removed from its original position near the Casa Rosada and replaced
by one of Juana Azurduy.
Colombia, the only country in the world with a name originated from
Columbus himself, celebrates El día de la Raza y de la
is taken as an opportunity to celebrate the encounter of "the two
worlds" and to reflect on the richness that the racial diversity has
brought to the culture.
Current state (June 6, 2006) of the Columbus Walk in Caracas. The
statue was knocked down by activists after a "public trial" during the
celebrations of the newly instituted "Day of the Indigenous
Resistance" (October 12) in 2004.
Between 1921 and 2002,
Venezuela celebrated Día de la Raza along with
Latin American nations. The original holiday was officially
established in 1921 under President Juan Vicente Gómez. In 2002,
under president Hugo Chávez, the name was changed to Día de la
Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance) to commemorate
the Indigenous peoples' resistance to European settlement. On October
12, 2004 a crowd of pro-government activists toppled the statue of
Christopher Columbus in
Caracas and sprayed allusive graffiti over its
pedestal. The pro-Chávez website Aporrea wrote: "Just like the statue
of Saddam in Baghdad, that of Columbus the tyrant also fell this
October 12, 2004 in Caracas". The famous toppling of Saddam
Hussein's statue had occurred the previous year.
On September 21, 1994,
Costa Rica changed the official holiday from
Día de la Raza to Día del Encuentro de las Culturas(Day of the
Encounter of Cultures) to recognize the mix of European, Native
American (autochthonous populations), African and Asian cultures that
constitute modern Costa Rican (and Latin American) culture and
ethnicity. In accordance to the Costa Rican labor law, the holiday is
observed on October 12. However, should this date coincide with a
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, the employer shall agree that
said holiday be postponed to the following Monday. 
Columbus Day is not celebrated. Instead, the country
celebrates the arrival on the coast of present-day
Brazil of the fleet
led by Portuguese explorer
Pedro Álvares Cabral
Pedro Álvares Cabral on April 22, 1500.
This date is known in
Brazil as "O Descobrimento do Brazil" (The
Discovery of Brazil). The date began to be celebrated after the
country's independence from Portugal, when Brazilian Emperor Pedro II
instituted the date as part of a plan to foster a sense of nationalism
among Brazil's diverse citizenry—giving them a common identity and
history as residents of a unique Portuguese-speaking empire surrounded
by Hispanic-American Republics.  The Discovery of
originally celebrated on May 3, but scholars in the nineteen century
found definitive evidence proving April 22 to be the actual date of
the arrival of Cabral's fleet on South American shores.  In 2000,
the government of
Brazil used the date to celebrate 500 years of the
existence of the country. The festivities, however, were met with
protests by indigenous peoples who claimed it marked 500 years of
genocide of indigenous Brazilians. 
Caribbean countries also observe holidays related to Columbus
Day. In Belize, October 12 is celebrated as Day of the
Americas or Pan
American Day. In the Bahamas, it was formerly known as
Discovery Day, until 2001 when it was replaced by National Heroes Day.
Christopher Columbus in Genoa, Italy
Since the 18th century, many Italian communities in the
observed the Discovery of the
New World as a celebration of their
Cristopher Columbus (whose original, Italian name is
"Cristoforo Colombo") was an Italian explorer, citizen of the Republic
Columbus Day has been officially celebrated since 2004.
It is officially named Giornata nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo.
The "Lega Navale Italiana" has created a Regata di Colombo as a
celebration of the Columbus achievement. Italians have celebrated
their "Cristoforo Colombo" naming after him many civilian and military
ships, like the ocean liner SS Cristoforo Colombo.
See also: Fiesta Nacional de España
Spain has celebrated the anniversary of Columbus's arrival
Americas as its Fiesta Nacional or "National Day".
Spain had celebrated the day as Día de la Hispanidad,
emphasizing Spain's ties with the Hispanidad, the international
Hispanic community. In 1981 a royal decree established the Día de
Hispanidad as a national holiday. However, in 1987 the name was
changed to Fiesta Nacional, and October 12 became one of two national
celebrations, along with
Constitution Day on December 6. Spain's
"national day" had moved around several times during the various
regime changes of the 20th century; establishing it on the day of the
international Columbus celebration was part of a compromise between
conservatives, who wanted to emphasize the status of the monarchy and
Spain's history, and Republicans, who wanted to commemorate Spain's
burgeoning democracy with an official holiday. Since 2000, October
12 has also been Spain's Day of the Armed Forces, celebrated each year
with a military parade in Madrid. Other than this, however, the
holiday is not widely or enthusiastically celebrated in Spain; there
are no other large-scale patriotic parades, marches, or other events,
and the observation is generally overshadowed by the feast day of Our
Lady of the Pillar (Fiestas del Pilar).
Opposition to Columbus celebrations
Columbus Day § Non-observance
Theodor de Bry depicting the controversial account by
Bartolomé de las Casas
Bartolomé de las Casas regarding the Brevísima relación de la
destrucción de las Indias, 1552. De Bry's works are characteristic of
the anti-Spanish propaganda that originated as a result of the Eighty
Years' War, known as the Black Legend.
Columbus Day dates back to at least the 19th century,
when anti-immigrant nativists (see Know Nothings) sought to eliminate
its celebration because of its association with immigrants from the
Catholic countries of Ireland and Italy, and the American Catholic
fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus. Some
anti-Catholics, notably including the
Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan and the Women of
the Ku Klux Klan, opposed celebrations of Columbus or monuments about
him because they thought that it increased Catholic influence in the
US, which was largely a Protestant country.
By far the more common opposition today, decrying both Columbus's and
other Europeans’ actions against the indigenous populations of the
Americas, did not gain much traction until the latter half of the 20th
century. This opposition was led by Native Americans and expanded upon
by left-wing political parties, though it has
become more mainstream. Surveys conducted in 2013 and 2015 found
26% to 38% of American adults not in favor of celebrating Columbus
There are many interrelated strands of criticism. One refers primarily
to the treatment of the indigenous populations during the European
colonization of the
Americas which followed Columbus's discovery. Some
groups, such as the American Indian Movement, have argued that the
ongoing actions and injustices against Native Americans are masked by
Columbus myths and celebrations. These groups argue that the legacy of
Columbus has been used to legitimize these actions. F. David Peat
asserts that many cultural myths of
North America exclude or diminish
the culture and myths of Native Americans. These cultural myths
include ideas expressed by Michael Berliner of the Ayn Rand Institute,
claiming that Western civilization brought "reason, science,
self-reliance, individualism, ambition, and productive achievement" to
a people who were based in "primitivism, mysticism, and collectivism",
and to a land that was "sparsely inhabited, unused, and
underdeveloped". American anthropologist
Jack Weatherford says
that on Columbus Day, Americans celebrate the greatest waves of
genocide of the American Indians known in history. American Indian
Colorado leader and activist
Ward Churchill takes this
argument further, contending that the mythologizing and celebration of
the European settlement of the
Columbus Day make it easier
for people today to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions,
or the actions of their governments regarding indigenous populations.
He wrote in his book Bringing the Law Back Home:
Very high on the list of those expressions of non-indigenous
sensibility [that] contribute to the perpetuation of genocidal
policies against [American] Indians are the annual Columbus Day
celebration, events in which it is baldly asserted that the process,
events, and circumstances described above are, at best, either
acceptable or unimportant. More often, the sentiments expressed by the
participants are, quite frankly, that the fate of Native America
embodied in Columbus and the Columbian legacy is a matter to be openly
and enthusiastically applauded as an unrivaled "boon to all mankind".
Undeniably, the situation of American Indians will not—in fact
cannot—change for the better so long as such attitudes are deemed
socially acceptable by the mainstream populace. Hence, such
Columbus Day must be stopped.
A second strain of criticism of
Columbus Day focuses on the character
of Columbus himself. In time for the 2004 observation of the day, the
final volume of a compendium of Columbus-era documents was published
by the University of California, Los Angeles's Medieval and
Renaissance Center. Geoffrey Symcox, the general editor of the
While giving the brilliant mariner his due, the collection portrays
Columbus as an unrelenting social climber and self-promoter who
stopped at nothing—not even exploitation, slavery, or twisting
Biblical scripture—to advance his ambitions… Many of the
unflattering documents have been known for the last century or more,
but nobody paid much attention to them until recently… The fact that
Columbus brought slavery, enormous exploitation or devastating
diseases to the
Americas used to be seen as a minor detail—if it was
recognized at all—in light of his role as the great bringer of white
man's civilization to the benighted idolatrous American continent. But
to historians today this information is very important. It changes our
whole view of the enterprise.
Howard Zinn described some of the details of how Columbus personally
ordered the enslavement and mutilation of the native
Arawak people in
a bid to repay his investors:
Now, from his base on Haiti, Columbus sent expedition after expedition
into the interior. They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the
ships returning to
Spain with some kind of dividend. In the year 1495,
they went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak
men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and
dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships.
Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived
Spain and were put up for sale by the archdeacon of the town,
who reported that, although the slaves were "naked as the day they
were born," they showed "no more embarrassment than animals." Columbus
later wrote: "Let us in the name of the Holy
Trinity go on sending all
the slaves that can be sold."
But too many of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus,
desperate to pay back dividends to those who had invested, had to make
good his promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao
on Haiti, where he and his men believed huge gold fields to exist,
they ordered all persons fourteen years or older to collect a certain
quantity of gold every three months. When they brought it, they were
given copper tokens to hang around their necks. American Indians found
without a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death.
Most criticisms combine elements of both strains. Journalist and media
Norman Solomon reflects, in Columbus Day: A Clash of Myth and
History, that many people choose to hold on to the myths surrounding
Columbus, whereas historians who deal with the evidence are frequently
depicted as “politically correct” revisionists. He quotes from the
logbook Columbus's initial description of the American Indians: "They
do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword,
they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance.... They
would make fine servants.... With 50 men we could subjugate them all
and make them do whatever we want". In 1495, during the Second Voyage,
American Indians were transported to
Spain as slaves, many dying en
route. "Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity", Columbus later wrote,
"go on sending all the slaves that can be sold". Solomon states that
the most important contemporary documentary evidence is the
History of the Indies by the Catholic priest Bartolomé
de las Casas, who observed the region where Columbus was governor. In
contrast to "the myth" Solomon quotes Las Casas, who describes
Spaniards driven by "insatiable greed"—"killing, terrorizing,
afflicting, and torturing the native peoples" with "the strangest and
most varied new methods of cruelty" and how systematic violence was
aimed at preventing "[American] Indians from daring to think of
themselves as human beings." The Spaniards "thought nothing of knifing
[American] Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them
to test the sharpness of their blades," wrote Las Casas. "My eyes have
seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I
In the summer of 1990, 350 representatives from American Indian groups
from all over the hemisphere, met in Quito, Ecuador, at the first
Intercontinental Gathering of Indigenous People in the Americas, to
mobilize against the 500th anniversary (quin-centennial) celebration
Columbus Day planned for 1992. The following summer, in Davis,
California, more than a hundred Native Americans gathered for a
follow-up meeting to the
Quito conference. They declared October 12,
1992 to be "International Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People".
The largest ecumenical body in the United States, the National Council
of Churches, called on Christians to refrain from celebrating the
Columbus quincentennial, saying, "What represented newness of freedom,
hope, and opportunity for some was the occasion for oppression,
degradation and genocide for others". Among the latest places in
United States to redefine how they would celebrate the holiday to
the title "Indigenous Peoples' Day" by the autumn of 2016 include
communities in Massachusetts, specifically Cambridge, Amherst and
Northampton, with a group naming itself the "Indigenous Peoples' Day
of Massachusetts" currently attempting to do the same for the state's
capital city of Boston.
An American Hispanist, commenting on Spain’s glorification of
1492/1992, pointed out that in
Spain in 1492, the big events were the
conquest of Granada and secondarily the expulsion of all of Spain’s
Jews (see Alhambra decree). In 1992, it would have been politically
Spain to commemorate either of these.
Latin America portal
Age of Discovery
Indigenous Peoples' Day
L'Anse aux Meadows
Leif Erikson Day
UN Spanish Language Day
World's Columbian Exposition
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Colonial Pirate Christopher Columbus". Retrieved October 7,
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granadinos", Journal of Hispanic Philology, 16, pp. 107–124,
Archived from the original on April 6, 2016, retrieved November 5,
2017 CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Columbus Day.
Berkeley's Indigenous Peoples Day –
History of the annual
celebration, pow wow and Native American market
Today in History: October 12 – An article about
Columbus Day at the
Library of Congress
Columbus Day Alliance – Denver-based organization with
background on opposition to Columbus Day
Columbus Day Celebrates Western Culture – Frontpagemag.com
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religious holidays, (week) = weeklong holidays, (month) = monthlong
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See also: Lists of holidays, Hallmark holidays, public holidays in the
United States, New Jersey, New York,
Puerto Rico and the United Stat