Flower

Posts Tagged ‘Dia de la Raza’

What are you celebrating today?

Christopher Columbus photo via Wikimedia, indigenous Guatemalan girls photo via CultureGrams.

 

Today, or on a day soon to come this month, countries throughout the Western hemisphere will mark some aspect of the European encounter with the Americas. Which aspect they choose to celebrate depends on their perspective. And in fact some cities within the same country (namely the U.S.) will be celebrating under different titles.

In many Latin American countries, this October holiday is called Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in an effort to highlight the indigenous cultures Columbus encountered when he arrived in the Americas. However, some indigenous groups, such as those in Chile, find nothing to celebrate on this day and instead call it Día de la Resistencia Indígena, or Indigenous Resistance Day.

Within the United States, the federal holiday is called Columbus Day, a title that, according to the New York Times, has been controversial from the start. Formally made a recurring holiday in 1934, Columbus Day began as a celebration more significant to Italian-Americans than the general population, and Italian-American groups today still advocate for the holiday to be called Columbus Day. As the figure of Columbus broadened to represent general European settlement of the Americas, resistance to the holiday deepened. As one Christian Science Monitor article (available via SIRS) put it, “For many native Americans, Columbus is a symbol of European colonialism, enabling widespread destruction of indigenous cultures and its people and paving the way for rampant oppression and forced relocation.” In response, many states with high native populations stopped celebrating Columbus Day and some cities and states added “Indigenous People’s Day” to the holiday name or changed the name entirely. Today only 25 states in all observe the holiday.

However, shifting the celebration from Columbus to the people he and other Europeans colonized is not itself without controversy. Last month an opinion piece (available via eLibrary) in The Weekly Standard argued that “up until fairly recently the European discovery of the Americas was regarded as a milestone in Western civilization . . .” The author also likened Columbus Day to other U.S. holidays that are outdated but “represent the great American habits of adaptation and historical amnesia.”

So what is the holiday called where you live today? Or is it considered a holiday at all? And do you agree with that status or name? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. In the meantime, check out more Columbus Day/Día de la Raza/Indigenous People’s Day articles and information in CultureGrams, SIRS, and eLibrary!