commemorates the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus,
who first landed in the New World on October 12, 1492.
Throughout the nineteenth century, Italian-Americans
organized celebrations in various cities to honor
Columbus, and in 1905, Colorado became the first state
to observe Columbus Day. In 1937, President Franklin
Roosevelt proclaimed October 12 to be officially
celebrated as Columbus Day. In 1971, President Richard
Nixon declared it a federal public holiday, celebrated
on the second Monday in October.
believed if he sailed 3000 miles west he would
reach Asia, he was seeking a short cut to the
West Indies. He approached John II, King of
Portugal for support of his expedition. When the
King refused him, he approached King Ferdinand
and Queen Isabella of Spain for their
sponsorship. They did not grant his request
immediately but, later reconsidered. He set sail
on August 3, 1492 with three ships the Nina, the
Pinta and the Santa Maria, problems with the
Nina and the Pinta necessitated a one month
delay in the Canary Islands. He set sail again
on September 3, 1492 and thirty-three days later
on October 12, 1492 discovered land.
Christopher Columbus was an
Italian navigator from Genoa, Italy. He planned his
voyages with his two brothers, Diego, who helped rule
Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and
Columbus had little formal schooling, but taught himself
Portuguese, Spanish, and Latin. He never learned to read
or write Italian. As a boy, he was dreamy and sensitive.
He was described as a "tall man and well built,
ruddy, of a great creative talent and with a long
face." He was trained in his father's trade of wool
weaving, yet he was interested in the sea and spent time
as a youth around Genoa's busy port.
Columbus was determined to make a transatlantic voyage.
He was convinced he could sail west and reach the Indies
(which in Columbus' time included China, Japan, and
India) in a few weeks. He sought support unsuccessfully
from England and Portugal, but was finally successful in
being sponsored by Spain.
For his famous voyage, he received three ships fully
equipped at the king and queen's expense, a large share
in the trade, the governorship of any lands he might
discover, the title of admiral, and noble rank. Columbus
asked a great deal for himself in order to save his
heirs from being as poor as he was. Thus, all of his
rewards were to be inherited by his children.
The dimensions of Columbus' ships are not known.
However, historians have been able to make estimates
based on their studies of the times.
The Santa Maria, the flagship, was the largest and was
believed to weigh between 100 and 120 tons and to be
80-85 feet long. It was thought to carry about 40 of the
three ships' total crew of 90 men. The Nina and the
Pinta were believed to be 65-70 feet long. The ships
were lightly armed and carried the usual cargo for
trading: cloth, knives, glass beads, and trinkets.
Columbus made a total of four voyages to the New World.
In the course of these trips, he discovered the northern
coast of South America and further explored the western
Caribbean. During these voyages, he learned the best way
to make use of North Atlantic wind systems for
It is known that other explorers, such as the Vikings,
sailed to the Americas long before Columbus. But only
after Columbus' voyages did significant numbers of
Europeans settle in the New World, primarily in the West
The traditional Columbus Day in the United States
includes a parade down New York's Fifth Avenue. Parades
and pageantry are often featured in smaller towns and
cities. In recent years, the holiday has been rejected
by many people who view it as a celebration of conquest
and genocide. In its place, Indigenous Peoples Day is
Many Latin American countries celebrate this day as Día
de la Raza (Day of the Race). This day celebrates the
Spanish heritage of the Latin American peoples and
includes brightly colored fiestas.
For decades and decades, American history books and
school teacher told that Columbus discovered America.
What those books and teachings did not give credit to
was the fact that Native Americans were already here
first and truly discovered America. It also gave little
mention to the fact that Nordic explorers had traveled
down the eastern cost of Canada thousands of years
Today, Columbus day id celebrated for what it
accurately is. Columbus did discover the existence of
the New World for Europeans who until then, believed the
world was flat and ended somewhere in the Atlantic. And,
the focus is more upon discovery of the "New
World", and less upon Columbus himself.