On October 12, 1492, after a two-month voyage, Christopher Columbus landed the Santa María, the Pinta, and the Niña on an island in the Bahamas he called San Salvador. From there, he and his men traveled around the Caribbean for five months.
The Italian explorer believed he’d reached East Asia. He sighted Cuba and thought it was China, and when the expedition landed on Hispaniola, he thought he’d found Japan.
His discovery has been celebrated since the 18th century. Columbus Day became a U.S. federal holiday in 1937.
Columbus’s contribution to world history was introducing Europeans to the New World, which led to cultural exchange, commerce, and exploration, and eventually to the discovery of the real westward route to the Indies.
But Columbus Day and the man who inspired it have also generated controversy.
Many argue that Europeans got land, slaves, and gold, while the aboriginals were dispossessed, enslaved, and infected. Those protests of Columbus Day celebrations resulted in the creation of Indigenous People’s Day in the 1990s, which coincides with Columbus Day.
South Dakota became the first U.S. state to recognize Indigenous People’s Day in 1989. Many states and cities officially celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day. Only Alabama and Oklahoma observe both.
I’m not taking sides on which day to celebrate, but I will forever recall the jingle I memorized to remember the man’s accomplishment.
Now you’ll have the jingle sailing through your head all day today too.
FYI, I do recognize the inaccuracies in the jingle. Columbus never really set foot on US soil, but I will forever remember when he discovered the Bahamas. =)