Photo: A map of the world published in Cosmographia by the press of Lienhart Holle of Ulm, Germany, on July 6, 1482.
In Mexico, October 12th is a national holiday known as Día de la Raza or Day of the Race, this date is honored in other countries as Columbus Day.
In the fifteenth century, an obscure Italian seafarer named Christopher Columbus became convinced that it was possible to reach the East from Europe by sailing westward across the Atlantic and that this route would be shorter than traveling around Africa; he underestimated the size of the Earth and overestimated the size and eastward extension of Asia. After eight years of negotiations, he convinced Queen Isabella of Spain to support his enterprise. He finally set out in three small ships and, on October 12th, 1492, he landed on an island in the Bahamas inhabited by the Taino or Arawak tribe, thinking that it was India.
Less than 30 years later, in 1521, Hernán Cortés landed on the shores of Mexico. He was received with gifts, and he proceeded to conquer the vast Mexica empire which is Mexico today. Relations between the indigenous population and the conquerors of Mexico during the 300 year colonial period were complex. Spain sought riches in the new land, but also converts for Catholicism. Missionaries traveled with the soldiers. Some of them were greatly impressed by native cultures and are responsible for the preservation of many codices and documents regarding the period.
Columbus Day is the annual U.S. commemoration of Christopher Columbus’s landing in the New World (at San Salvador Island in the Bahamas) on October 12, 1492. Columbus was not the first European to successfully cross the Atlantic. Viking sailors may have established a short-lived settlement in Newfoundland sometime in the 11th century, and scholars have argued for a number of other possible pre-Columbian landings. Columbus, however, initiated the lasting encounter between Europeans and the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere.
A number of nations celebrate this encounter with annual holidays: Discovery Day in the Bahamas, Hispanic Day in Spain, and Dia de la Raza in much of Latin America. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day a national holiday to occur on October 12 every year. Then, in 1971, Congress moved the U.S. holiday from October 12 to the second Monday in October, to afford workers a long holiday weekend. U.S. federal government offices close on Columbus Day, as do most banks. Schools typically remain open, as do most American businesses.