Columbus Day is today.
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Politics and Activism

Columbus Day is today.

"Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World."

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Columbus Day is today.

Who is Christopher Columbus and why did he become famous?

Christopher Columbus was an Italian citizen, explorer, navigator, and businessman. He was born in Genoa in 1451 and died in Spain in 1506. Undoubtedly, he is considered one of the most important figures of the historical period in which Queen Isabella of Castile lived. Every single student all over the world has studied and has read about Columbus and his crucial discovery. All students have studied about him in High School and College; so his name is totally familiar.Columbus, at first, tried to get financed by the Portuguese ruler, but without any effort. Then, he proposed his plan to reach the East Indies by crossing the Atlantic Ocean at Isabella of Castile's court in 1486, but the project at first, wasn't approved either. Only, in 1492, however, after gaining the support of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, Columbus set out with three caravels, the Pinta, the Niña, and the Santa Maria, on his first voyage. His first journey was funded thanks to the help and the economic support of Spain. King Ferdinand of Aragon and his wife Queen Isabella of Castile funded the exploration and voyage for Columbus. The role of Isabella of Castile in Columbus' enterprise was fundamental: in addition to granting the navigator the necessary ships, the Spanish queen appointed him admiral and granted him a series of privileges and prerogatives, including the promise to obtain a share of the profits of future explorations.


His aim was to arrive to the East by sailing to the West, because he thought that the Earth was round, and he desired to travel the entire world to reach his destination, the Indies. The Italian navigator Christopher Columbus was ready to start the navigation that had to lead him to Asia from the Atlantic Ocean, thinking that the route was considered shorter than the circumnavigation of Africa. The search for the shorter route to the Indies needed substantial funding and without Spain's help Columbus surely couldn't have afforded it.


Columbus sailed on the 3rd of August from the port of Palos de la Frontera in Andalusia and after two months of navigation into the dangerous oceans, on October 11th, in the distance, Columbus spotted a light. On the morning of October 12, 1492, Rodrigo de Triana, a Spanish sailor who accompanied Columbus in his first trip, distinclty saw the coast. The three caravels found a gap in the coral reef and landed on a local island in the Bahamas, that Columbus renamed San Salvador. After Columbus' first voyage, Queen Isabella decided to finance further expeditions and send settlers to establish settlements in America. In addition, Columbus was given the task of governing the newly discovered lands, which allowed him to acquire enormous power and influence in the region. The meeting between Columbus and Isabella represented one of the most important moments in the history of navigation and geographical exploration,and it had a lasting impact in the history of mankind. Isabella's decision to support Columbus' voyage in his quest to discover a new route to reach the East proved to be an exceptional success, leading to the creation of a New World and the founding of the Spanish empire. Columbus was sure he had landed in Asia, he was totally unaware that he had discovered a new land. In reality, he didn't discover the Indies, rather a new continent. Thanks to the Italian explorer, the discovery of this new continent led to the connection of the Old World to the New World. This land, mistaken for the Indies by Cristopher Columbus, was then called America in honor of the Florentine navigator, explorer, and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci.


Ocotber 12 a National holiday.

The first Columbus day celebration started in 1792, and it was organized by a political society called the Columbian Order, in New York. It was also celebrated in San Francisco for the first time, in 1869. The first state to officially recognize this holiday was Colorado in 1905 thanks to a Catholic association, which had always honored Cristopher Columbus and his great achievements. In the beginning of the XIX century many Italian communities started to organize ceremonies to honor Columbus' discoveries, and to appreciate the Italian explorer who discovered the American continent. In 1937, President Roosevelt decided and proclaimed October 12th a national holiday, and then it was shifted to the second Monday of October, as it still is today.


Many controversies around Columbus Day as a national holiday.

Columbus has always been known to be a courageous explorer who discovered the New World but many controversies around him exist. The first big controversy around this feast regards the discovery of the new country, many people do not attribute the achievement of the discovery of a new continent to Columbus,because indigenous people were already living in that land for centuries before Columbus actually sailed the American coast. He just discovered a new part of the American continent.The second big controversy regards the barbaric way Columbus treated the indigenous communities. Columbus had written in his diary that Europeans understood that it would have been easier to enslave these populations, forcibly convert them to Christianity and force them to collect gold. The arrival of Europeans also introduced diseases that were completely unknown to the Indians, in the New World. Some diseases like: measles, the plague, malaria, smallpox, influenza, and typhus decimated the entire population of America, little by little. Columbus brought new diseases which had a catastrophic effect on them, in fact many people died of a simple cold. The exploration brought to a slave trade among the native people. In reality, Columbus abducted some slaves and brought them with him, reaching Cuba, Hispaniola.


The Indios.

The first people that Columbus met were called Lucayan, he gave them water and food. Other inhabitants he met were the Taino, the population that had the most dramatic consequences. The genocide of this population was attributed to all the diseases brought by the Europeans.The huge continent was inhabited by numerous populations, who often lived isolated from each other, the very large spaces and the small number of inhabitants did not facilitate exchanges between the different civilizations. When the indigenous people saw the Europeans for the first time they remained shock, the indigenous population had never seen a weapon. The indigenous people in fact, had been decimated by the violence of the Spanish conquistadores, by diseases, and by the grueling rhythms of work. As soon as the European ships landed in America, not only soldiers disembarked but also powerful and unknown microbes that massacred millions and millions of people.


This world was so different from the European one, the conquistadores landed in search of new treasures. The goal of the conquistadores was to search for gold and precious metals and conquer new territories. Their exploitations were almost always financed by the Spanish monarchy. They robbed the natives of their wealth and killed women, men and children. The most important conquistadores were Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizarro who destroyed the Aztec empire and the Inca empire, respectively.

Some states in the United States do not officially celebrate this holiday, rather this day is substituted with another holiday, Indigenous People's Day, in order to celebrate the indigenous popolations. In the past few years many statues that depicted Columbus were knocked down, for example, in Virginia and in Minnesota, others instead have been vandalized. I am not here to tell you to celebrate or not to celebrate Columbus Day, mine is a reflection on this big controversy that has been created recently. Every single historical phenomenon in the past has brought positive and negative consequences, something good can bring devastating consequences. It's how history works, history must be studied, must be comprehended, and must be remembered. I would like to mention an important writer and philosopher George Santayana who cited "Those who do not learn history are destined to repeat it." This quote is relevant because it means that history gives us the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past, remember it as a way not to repeat it. The positive thing is that Columbus, certainly a courageous man, set out to conquer an unknown world, discovering a new part of the continent, crossing a new route never traveled before. Nowadays, every year the second Monday of October, Columbus Day is celebrated. Many Italian-American communities hold church services, events, celebrations, parades, and fairs to honor the Italian explorer. Italians are very proud of this holiday, and very proud that an Italian navigator, the first European man had discovered the American continent.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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