Ask almost any American elementary student why the Country celebrates Columbus Day and they will immediately recite “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. ” Historically, this is true. Christopher Columbus did set sail in 1492 in order to discover new lands for the King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. The sailing party consisted of three ships: the Pinta, the Nina, and the Santa Maria. Columbus had sailed to far away lands before including Guinea and Iceland. In this trip, it was the aspiration of Columbus to discover the East Indies. When Columbus spotted the new lands, Columbus thought that he had, in fact, reached the East Indies; which are a group of islands located off of the coast of Southeast Asia. Instead, Columbus had came ashore in the Bahamas, and later Cuba and Hispaniola (now known as Haiti); all of which are off of the coast of the Americas – a long way from his original target.
The first official Columbus Day celebration was held in Colorado in 1905 and after 1920 the celebration became an annual event. There were, however, many less official Columbus Day celebrations held before the State of Colorado declared the official holiday. For example, one of the first recorded celebrations of Columbus Day was a ceremony held in New York City in 1792. The Columbian Order organized the occasion to honor Christopher Columbus and the 300th anniversary his landing in the islands of the Bahamas. The 1866 the Italian population of New York City sponsored another celebration of Columbus Day on October 12th. This celebration was based upon Columbus’ discovery of Americas. This movement within the Italian-American population spread across the country and in 1869 a similar celebration called “C-day” was held in San Francisco.
President Benjamin Harrison had a commemorative Columbus Day holiday in 1892 which was intended to honor the 400th year anniversary of the voyage. In 1937 President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed that October 12 would be known as Columbus Day. The October 12th date was changed in 1971 when Congress made Columbus Day a Federal public holiday that occurs the second Monday of October regardless of the date.
Recent years has brought about a great deal of controversy regarding Columbus’ expedition and the discoveries he made – especially in light of the clear miss of the targeted area of exploration and the natives of the Bahamas region being turned into slaves. However, as a direct result of Columbus’ attempt to discover the East Indies, scholars were able to gain a better understanding of just how large the Earth really was. Additionally, Europe and Spain became exposed to the Americas which resulted in trade opportunities and colonization of the new world – opportunities that still act like a beacon that draws people from all over the world to the Americas today.
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