If you’ve ever seen this day marked on your desktop calendars and wondered what it was, think La Niña (née La Santa Clara), La Pinta, and La Santa María. On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in the modern-day Commonwealth of the Bahamas. Although Columbus Day was formally recognized here in the United States on Monday, October 10 (which was also Canada’s Thanksgiving Day), I would like to address some of the implications of this day to Hispanic people—especially since National Hispanic Heritage Month culminates this Saturday, October 15.
Día de la Raza or Day of the Race commemorates the “discovery” or “encounter” of America by Christopher Columbus; the spotting of land—by Rodrigo de Triana, a Sevillian crew member of Columbus’s fleet; and the celebration of “Hispanidad” (literally, Hispanity). In Spain the name of the holiday is “Día de la Hispanidad” or “Fiesta Nacional de España” (National Holiday of Spain). The commemorative day was named by Faustino Rodríguez-San Pedro y Díaz-Argüelles, a politician who served as the head of many Spanish ministries, in his function as the President of the Ibero-American Union.
Like Columbus Day in the United States, Día de la Raza is a national holiday in many Latin American countries and in Spain. The difference, however, is that it is not a movable holiday as it is in the United States; i.e., it is always celebrated on October 12. Many countries issue provisions concerning the fiscal year’s holidays (particularly concerning the central banks) and the protocol to follow for that day. A curious legal fact about the day is that on October 10, 2002, the current president of Venezuela issued a decree replacing the holiday of October 12 with October 11. The new holiday was named the “Day of the Indigenous Resistance.”
The following are just a few of the countries that celebrate the October 12th holiday: