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October 12, Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity

12 Oct 2022

The Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity, also known as Columbus Day, is celebrated on October 12. This day commemorates the discovery of America by the navigator Christopher Columbus in 1492, marking the beginning of the exchange of cultures between the indigenous peoples and the Spanish conquistadors. But what does it really mean and how does it affect us?

It has several denominations, but with the same objective: to commemorate the "first encounter between two worlds". It is known as Día de la Raza (Day of the Race), Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance), Día de la Hispanidad (Hispanity Day), Día de la Diversidad Cultural (Cultural Diversity Day), and Spain it is also referred to as Día de la Hispanidad (Day of Hispanity).

Edwin Aguilar photo of a boy
Photo by: Edwin Aguilar

Why is this day controversial?

The celebration of this day has been the cause of controversy and diverse points of view, regarding the conquest of America by the European powers, subjecting the pre-Columbian peoples and affecting the Native American cultures.

Other positions consider this day as a historical event that allowed the establishment of contact between the inhabitants of the European continent and the American continent, leading to the fusion of cultures and the birth of the Hispano-American civilization.

These different positions led some countries to modify the denomination of this day, initially and generally known as Día de la Raza, to other denominations that allude to cultural exchange, Hispanic culture, and indigenous resistance. 

This day is not even considered a holiday by some nations such as Panama and Peru.

On the other hand, some discoveries and investigations point out that Columbus was not the first European to arrive in America, finding records of the arrival of Vikings 500 years before the voyage of Christopher Columbus, as well as evidence of the arrival of Portuguese in 1424.

Edwin Aguilar fotos-guatemalan girl
Photo by: Edwin Aguilar

How long has Columbus Day been celebrated?

The celebration of this day dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, unofficially. In 1913, the president of the Ibero-American Union, Faustino Rodriguez-San Pedro, chose October 12 as Columbus Day to unify the celebration of this day in Spain and Latin America. Since 1915 it has been called Día de la Raza (Day of the Race).

How is Columbus Day celebrated around the world?

This day is commemorated in several countries of Latin America, Spain, and the United States, with different denominations:

In Mexico: 

Edwin Aguilar fotos-guatemalan girl

Since 2020, Mexico celebrates, although without great pomp, the Day of the Pluricultural Nation on October 12, a day to celebrate miscegenation, the day of the mixture of indigenous people with Europeans; in Argentina, in line with Mexico, they celebrate the Day of Respect for American Cultural Diversity.

In Guatemala: 

It is known as Day of Hispanity.

In Argentina:

In the year 1917, the president of the Argentine Republic declared that day a national holiday as Día de la Raza (Day of the Race). At the end of 1920, Monsignor Zacarías de Vizcarra proposed to rename it Día de la Hispanidad.

It is now known as the Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity.

In the Bahamas:

This holiday is called Discovery Day.

In Belize:

It is known as Pan-American Day.

In Bolivia:

It is currently known as Decolonization Day (by decree dated 12/10/2011).

In Chile:

This day was renamed as Day of the Encounter of Two Worlds, according to law 19.668 of 2000.

It is celebrated on the Monday closest to October 12 (if this date falls between Tuesday and Friday).

In Colombia:

It is known as Día de la Raza y la Hispanidad, according to Law 35 of the year 1939.

It is celebrated on the following Monday.

In Costa Rica:

This day is not a holiday. In 2019, the October 12 holiday was eliminated and replaced by the Anniversary of the Abolition of the Army, celebrated on December 1.

Edwin Aguilar fotos-guatemalan girls

In Spain:

Initially, it was celebrated as Fiesta de la Raza until 1958.

It is now known as the National Day of Spain.

In the United States:

It is known as Columbus Day.

In some states the change of denomination to Indigenous Peoples Day was considered, taking into account the origin of many of its inhabitants.

In Uruguay:

Cultural Diversity Day is celebrated.

In Venezuela:

It is known as Indigenous Resistance Day as of 2002, at the request of indigenous organizations.

Beyond the controversies and polemics that have been generated around the subject, the celebration of this day should be an element of reflection, respect, and celebration of the cultural identity of the people and their history. And in your country, how is this day celebrated? #DiadelaRaza.

Source: Dia Internacional

Photos by: Edwin Aguilar

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