Columbus Circle in NYC
The silver globe of Columbus Circle in New York City. Delanoix

Few things are as controversial as celebrating a date that implies a different version of victors and vanquished or, being Columbus Day, of conquerors and conquered.

In many places in the Americas, the sole mention of Columbus Day, or Día de la Raza, triggers discussions and triggers discussions ranging from the real reason to celebrate to the authorities' decision to grant a day of rest.

In some countries, such as the U.S. Columbus Day is not observed nationally, and it isn't even held on October 12 as in the rest of the world.

Columbus Circle in NYC
Columbus Circle in NYC.

According to Drew Desilver, of the Pew Research Center, "Columbus Day, the second Monday in October, is one of the most inconsistently celebrated U.S. holidays."

In fact, depending on where a person is in the U.S., Columbus Day seems to fade to other category as a holiday. Instead, the date is moving closer to the South of the continent as many Native American communities refer to Indigenous People's Day.

That inconsistency is seen all over the Hispanic world, except in Spain. In the so-called 'mother country' by many Latin Americans, this day is Día de la Hispanidad and it's a National Holiday.

"The National Day of Spain or Día de la Hispanidad (Festa Nacional d'Espanya, in Catalan; Festa Nacional de España, in Galician; Espainiako Jai Nazionala, in Basque) commemorates the historical event of the discovery of America by Spain, a transcendental historical milestone for our country, which marks the beginning of a period of linguistic and cultural projection in America. All this occurred at a time when the modern State was being configured," says Spain's Ministry of Defense in a decree.

"The celebration takes place on October 12, with the development of a ceremony in the Plaza de Colón in Madrid, where homage is paid to the Flag and to those who gave their lives for Spain, followed by a military parade along the Paseo de la Castellana.

"The ceremony is presided over by HM the King and the Royal Family, the representatives of the powers of the State and the presidents of the Spanish autonomous regions are invited," according to the Ministry

Plaza de Colon in Madrid
Plaza de Colón, Madrid. Wikipedia/Σπάρτακος

In Latin America, the occasion differs from country to country. In Mexico, October 12 is Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) and, most recently is Día de la Nación Pluricultural (Day of the Pluricultural Nation).

In Central and South America it goes from Día de la Hispanidad, to Día de la Raza, Día de las Culturas, Día de los Pueblos Originarios y del Diálogo Intercultural (Day of the Original Peoples and Intercultural Dialogue), Día de la Diversidad Étnica (Day of Ethnic Diversity), Día del Encuentro de Dos Mundos (Day of the Encounter of Two Worlds)...

Yes but, What about Columbus Day in the U.S?

In the U.S. Columbus Day is considered one of the 11 official federal holidays. Federal employees get a paid day off and federal offices are closed. Though some banks are closed, the stock market is open.

According to Desilver, of the Pew: "Based on our review of state statutes, human resources websites and other sources, only 16 states and the territory of American Samoa still observe the second Monday in October as an official public holiday exclusively called Columbus Day. ("Official public holiday" typically means government offices are closed and state workers, except those in essential positions, have a paid day off.) In four states, two territories and Washington, D.C., the day is an official public holiday but goes by a different name. Four other states and the U.S. Virgin Islands mark the day as both Columbus Day and something else. And in 26 states and the territory of Guam, the second Monday in October is pretty much like any other workday.

For such a polemic day, maybe the words of Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano explain better (depending on which side of the Atlantic you read this... or where in the Americas):

"On a day like today but in 1492. The Natives of our continent discovered: that they were Indians; that they lived in America; that they were naked; that they owed obedience to a king and queen from another world; and that there was a god and a sky."

Monumento a Colón in Mexico City
Columbus Circle in Mexico City before the current administration removed the statue. Gaceta UNAM

© 2023 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.