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Happy Columbus Day! (Thanksgiving – Canada)

Happy Columbus Day to everyone!

What a difference 50 plus years has made in the meaning and celebration of Columbus Day. I remember when I was a kid ( 1st and 2nd grades) in a little one room school house in the middle of a corn field at Platte Woods, MO – Columbus Day was just that … a day to celebrate Columbus discovering America. Since then it has come to signify many different things around the world … and much controversy.

Columbus’ arrival in the Americas

Columbus celebrations commemorate the Genoese explorer’s first expedition across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. Columbus, on commission by the Spanish monarchy, was hoping to find a new naval route to India and the other nations of the East, but instead found the American continent which was virtually unknown to Europeans at the time. Columbus’s sailor Rodrigo de Triana was the first on the voyage to spot land in the New World; he found the island the natives called Guanahani at approximately 2:00 AM on October 12, 1492. The exact location of this island is unknown, though it was somewhere in the Bahamas. Columbus’s expedition launched the first large-scale European colonization of the Americas.

United States observance

The first Columbus Day celebration was held in 1792, when New York City celebrated the 300th anniversary of his landing in the New World. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison called upon the people of the United States to celebrate Columbus Day on the 400th anniversary of the event.

Some Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage, the first occasion being in New York City on October 12, 1866. Columbus Day was popularized as a holiday in the United States by a lawyer, a son of Genoese immigrants who came to California. During the 1850s, Genoese immigrants settled and built ranches along the Sierra Nevada foothills. As the gold ran out, these skilled “Cal-Italians”, from the Apennines, were able to prosper as self-sufficient farmers in the Mediterranean climate of Northern California. San Francisco has the second oldest Columbus Day celebration, with Italians having commemorated it there since 1869.

This lawyer then moved to Colorado, which had a population of Genoese miners, and where, in 1907, the first state-wide celebration was held. In 1934, at the behest of the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic fraternal service organization named for the voyager), Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set aside Columbus Day, October 12, as a Federal holiday.

Since 1971, the holiday has been commemorated in the U.S. on the second Monday in October, the same day as Thanksgiving in neighboring Canada. It is generally observed today by banks, the bond market, the U.S. Postal Service and other federal agencies, most state government offices, and many school districts; however, most businesses and stock exchanges remain open.

States and city observations

California

The city of Berkeley celebrates Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day every year with a pow wow and Native American market.

Colorado

The Columbus Day parade in Denver has been protested by Native American groups and their supporters for nearly two decades. Denver has the longest-running parade in the United States.

Hawaii

Hawaii does not officially honor Columbus day and instead celebrates Discoverer’s Day on the same day, i.e., on the second Monday of each October. While many in Hawaii still celebrate the life of Columbus on Columbus Day, the alternative holiday also honors James Cook, the British navigator that became the first person to record the coordinates of the Hawaiian Islands and share with the world the existence of the ancient Hawaiian people and society. Some people interpret the holiday as a celebration of all discoveries relative to the ancient and modern societies of Hawaii. Neither Columbus Day nor Discoverer’s Day is regarded as a holiday by State government; state, city and county government offices and schools are open for business on Columbus Day, while Federal government offices are closed.

Many Native Hawaiians decry the celebration of both Columbus and Cook, known to have committed acts of violent subjugation of native people. Discoverer’s Day is a day of protest for some advocacy groups. A popular protest site is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace and the Chancery building of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu. Such advocacy groups have been commemorating the Discoverer’s Day holiday as their own alternative, Indigenous Peoples Day. The week is called Indigenous Peoples Week.

Massachusetts

The city of Boston, which has a large Italian population, marks the occasion on the Sunday before Columbus Day with a parade through the city that alternates each year between East Boston and the North End.

New York

In New York State, Columbus Day is a holiday, as government offices and public schools are closed. However, the stock markets remain open.

Nevada

Columbus Day is not a legal holiday in Nevada, but it is a day of observance. Schools and state, city and county government offices are open for business on Columbus Day.

Puerto Rico

Columbus Day is a legal holiday in the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico.

South Dakota

In the state of South Dakota, the day is officially a state holiday known as “Native American Day”, not Columbus Day.

U.S. Virgin Islands

In the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the day is celebrated as “Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands Friendship Day.”

Virginia

The second Monday in October is a legal holiday in Virginia: Columbus Day and Yorktown Victory Day, honoring Christopher Columbus, and the final victory at Yorktown in the Revolutionary War.

Día de la Raza

The date of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas is celebrated in many countries in Latin America, although not in Brazil, (and in some Latino communities in the United States) as the Día de la Raza (“day of the race”), commemorating the first encounters of Europeans and Native Americans. The day was first celebrated in Argentina in 1917, Venezuela in 1921, Chile in 1923, and Mexico in 1928. The day was also celebrated under this title in Spain until 1957, when it was changed to the Día de la Hispanidad (“Hispanic Day”), and in Venezuela until 2002, when it was changed to the Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance).

Venezuelan observance

Between 1921 and 2002, Venezuela had celebrated Día de la Raza along with many other Latin American nations. The holiday was officially established in 1921 under President Juan Vicente Gómez.

Popular Resistance to Columbus Day

In 2002, under Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, the name was changed to Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance) to commemorate the Indigenous people’s resistance to European settlement. On the 2004 Day of Indigenous Resistance, activists toppled a statue of Columbus in Caracas. The pro-Chávez, left-wing 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.

In the summer of 1990, 350 Native Americans, representatives from all over the hemisphere, met in Quito, Ecuador, at the first Intercontinental Gathering of Indigenous People in the Americas, to mobilize against the quin-centennial celebration of Columbus Day. 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, 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 quin-centennial, saying, “What represented newness of freedom, hope, and opportunity for some was the occasion for oppression, degradation and genocide for others.”

Oct. 12th 2000 in St. Peters Square, a spokesperson for a delegation of indigenous persons from the Americas handed over a copy of the 1493 papal bull “Inter Caetera” for the attention of the Pope. The bull urged that the “barbarous nations” of the New World “be overthrown and brought to the faith.” The group sought to remind Catholic leaders “of the record of conquest, disease and slavery in the Americas, sometimes justified in the name of Christianity.” and asking that the bull be revoked.

… Life was oh so simple in that little one room school house as we sang “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue …….. ”

No matter where you are or how you personally observe this day … please do good stuff today and remember to tell someone you love them … as kind words go a long way.

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