Sunday, October 08, 2006

HOLIDAY: Columbus Day

Columbus Day

In the fifteenth century most believed the world was flat and you would either fall off the edge or get eaten by monsters and if anyone dared suggest otherwise, they would be jailed. Christopher Columbus, and Italian, was one of those men who dared to propose the world may be round but fortunately he was able to be more diplomatic about voicing his viewpoint. He convinced Queen Isabella of Spain to finance the exploration of a new trade route to Asia for the spice merchants to use. Up until that time, spice merchants sailed down Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope and then continued eastward to Asia and India. He began his campaign in 1486. Isabella declared that if he were successful discovering a new route and/or conquering a new land, she would name him “Admiral of All the Ocean Seas” and one-tenth of the resources he discovered. On August 3, 1492, he departed on the Santa Maria with the Nina and the Pinta sailing beside him. Columbus and his men suffered disease and death during the voyage but on October 11, they saw a light and the next day they discovered it was coming from a new land. They had thought they reached India and called the native people “Indians” but they were informed that the island was name Guanahani. Later they sailed to what is now known as Cuba but believed it was Japan. Columbus named the land San Salvador and claimed it for Spain. Columbus died not knowing that he had discovered completely new lands.

In 1792, New York City a ceremony was held in honor of Columbus. The city of Washington was officially named the District of Columbia. In 1892, New York City erected a statue of Columbus at the start of Columbus Avenue and replicas of the Santa Maria, Nina and Pinta were displayed at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In 1866, it was the Italian organizations that were crucial in creating the Columbus Day celebrations and eventually Italian organization held Columbus Day celebrations across the United States. In 1905, Colorado was the first state to observe Columbus Day and other states followed suite in the next years. President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed October 12 as Columbus Day in 1937. Then in 1968, President Johnson, declared that Columbus Day would be a National holiday celebrated every second Monday in October. The day is also set aside to celebrate all Discoverers.

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