President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared Columbus Day a holiday in 1937. He thought of it as a celebration of “promise” — the exciting discovery of a New World. President Reagan echoed FDR’s feelings in 1984, when he said, “This great explorer won a place in history and in the hearts of all Americans because he challenged the unknown and thereby found a New World.” In Italian communities, Columbus Day was a celebration of Italian-American heritage.

At the end of the 20th century, Columbus Day didn’t mean excitement to everyone. The idea of discovering a world where other people were already living was less appealing to many. There was also new information. For one thing, Columbus was not the first European to reach the Americas. The archaeological record now shows that Vikings had already made the voyage before Columbus, thinking he was in Asia, reached the Caribbean. What’s more, it is uncertain that Columbus actually came ashore on any part of the United States.

There was also more awareness that Columbus, however bold an explorer he might have been, was not a representative of democratic ideals. His writings show that he encouraged slavery and mistreatment of the people living in the places he claimed for Spain.

By the 1990s, some communities were replacing Columbus Day observances with Indigenous Peoples Day. Columbus is important in world history because of the far-reaching effects of his voyages, but some communities prefer to focus on the indigenous peoples who were so greatly affected.

One thing that is not controversial: Christopher Columbus reached Puerto Rico on November 19, 1493. He named the Island San Juan Bautista. Juan Ponce De Leon became the first governor of the Spanish colony.

Puerto Rico observes November 19th as Discovery of Puerto Rico Day. The day is marked by closure of schools and businesses, and by a giant parade. There are fairs, and the day is the beginning of the Christmas celebrations.



3 Responses

  1. The only thing worse than the violent clash of cultures between the Europeans and rival peoples was the clash between tribal peoples before the Europeans arrived, and even after. Columbus need not have landed in the territory that became the U.S. to have been the first European to bring a new political order that became sustainable. The natives tribes driven from the southern colonies and later states took African slaves. The only thing worse than being a slave for Europeans in the colonies or later U.S. states was to be a slave for native Americans tribes.

    • Further to preceding, just for purposes of contrasting perspectives, it is arguable that we all should recognize that indigenous people conquered each other and stole land and enslaved one another. By what racist logic do we celebrate conquest and tyranny by indigenous peoples over European conquest that ushered in a colonial era followed by an anti-colonial era? Having a holiday for specific natives tribes and peoples and leaders is fine, but the idea that indigenous people were somehow more inherently good than European explorers and pilgrims is patronizing and dehumanizing condescension. If the indigenous people had the technology to Wie out the Europeans and invade Europe they would have done so with a vengeance that would make European conquest seem enlightened by comparison. The struggles of European pilgrims with colonialism led to a revolution and emergence of the most humane social and political order the word had ever seen. The idea that it is somehow wrong to celebrate the man who said into the unknown and discovered what became the New World is historic illiteracy.

  2. Plus—-US* Hispanic-Puerto Rican Legacy-Macro History Excerpts–
    Ante la Historia–US Hispanic-Puerto Rican good contributions to our noble USA–dates to the initial settlement of our now USA by their Spanish and Other Ancestors that– first came from Puerto Rico to Florida (in 1513)-107 years before the Pilgrims; helped develop our noble USA! Some historic FACTS-
     Puerto Rico Natives (Tainos/Arawack)- Named Puerto Rico- Boriken—“Land of the Valiant Lord”… left traces in the now US before Christopher Columbus first Trip to Western Hemisphere..
     Christopher Columbus and Crew came to the Western Hemisphere on 12 October 1492 (first landed in San Salvador…); during his 2d Trip (19 November 1493), he found Puerto Rico (Boriken). But, in his four Trips… he never touched the continental landmass of the now USA…
     Juan Ponce de León (1st Governor Puerto Rico-Boriken) (March 1513) – organized an expedition from the now US Territory of Puerto Rico, and set sail with Crew (included Taínos, Blacks and Women) to find what the Natives called Bimini (now Florida, USA)… *1513 (April 2)-In the Spring they arrived at a verdant land which he named “La Florida”… (This dangerous voyage into the unknown put Florida on the Map for others to follow; help develop our USA…)
    • Puerto Rico was the historic 1st Gateway to the European settlement of Florida-which opened the doors to the advanced civilized settlement of our now USA–107 years before the Pilgrims landed…
    • Spanish-Hispanic Ancestors are part of Hispanic legacy, roots, & heritage; made many positive contributions to our now USA; overtime brought Christianity, Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, Oranges…; the Spanish language (the US is the 2d largest Spanish Speaking Country in the World); first Thanksgiving; and other good things to “America” (name set by Hispanic Ancestors)…
    • The Hispanic-Puerto Rican Legacy– complements the worthy contributions of Natives and Immigrants in the forming and development of our now beloved and noble USA…
    1508 Ponce de Leon founded “Caparra” the first settlement in Puerto Rico, but, in 1509 it was moved… to what today is San Juan (founded in 1521)—the oldest City under the US Flag, and where he is buried…
    1565: St. Augustine (2d Oldest City under US Flag) – was founded by: Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles…
    1585-1587: Roanoke Island, North Carolina- is the English first Colony in our now USA. But, before arrival, the Colonist in 5 Ships, faced a severe storm and took shelter in Puerto Rico( which hosted the first English Settlement and Fort in the New World), from where they later left to North Carolina…; disappeared without trace; became known as the “Lost Colony”…
    1607: The English stopped in Puerto Rico on their way to Jamestown, which was later abandoned…
    1620: The Pilgrims arrive at Plymouth Harbor/Rock (Massachusetts) on the Mayflower…
    1776-: US Hispanic Ancestors (Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Cubans…)-supported the US Continental Army and fought (for our USA) in the Revolutionary War against the British. General Galvez (Governor of Louisiana-now 13 US States), and General Castro (later Governor of Puerto Rico)—provided support; bravely fought in the important Battles of Pensacola (Florida), Louisiana, Missouri, etc.; helped the “US Minutemen Citizen-Soldiers” win the US War of Independence.
    US Hispanic Ancestors, help develop what today is California, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and 10 Other US States, among many other positive contributions…
    SPAIN—provided support to the US Continental Army; ; lent the rebelling Colonists, the use of its ports (including Puerto Rico) through which flowed financial aid, food, and arms; sent Hispanic Ancestors to fight in support of US Independence (to include a contingent from Puerto Rico) for US Freedom…
    FLORIDA: Many Flags have flown over Florida: Spanish, British, French, Florida, & now the US Flag!
    PR-1898: The US invades and takes possession of the US Territory of Puerto Rico … Puerto Ricans: are the 2d largest US Hispanic Ethnic Group; are about 10 million strong (PR &more in the States).
    • Fellow US Citizens-American Veterans in the US Territory of Puerto Rico (with more US Citizens than 22 States)-since 1898 have: NO Federal “consent of the governed” (NO VOTE for US President; NO just Representation in Congress; NO Parity in Federal Law/Programs/Funds; NO permanent US Citizenship…–which is against the Spirit of our US Constitution (“WE THE PEOPLE”)…Republican form of Government (a “Representative Democracy” with “consent of the governed”)….
    • Puerto Ricans have sacrificed; shed sweat, blood, and tears; fought in the War of Independence…; WW-I, WW-II, Korea, Cold War, Vietnam, War on Terrorism…).
    • The US 65th Infantry Regiment-The Borinqueneers (from PR)-are recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal-highest honor US Congress, with US President, can bestow and other Combat awards
    • The Time is now for Equal Civil Rights for all, not just for some! The Federal Government must let Puerto Ricans VOTE on the only non-territorial Options: STATEHOOD vs INDEPENDENCE…
    SUMMARY: Our good Natives, Immigrants, and Ancestors helped forge what America is today—the best in the imperfect annuals of Human History! Let’s learn from the past; ensure FAIR Treatment-Equal Rights for ALL “WE THE PEOPLE” as we make things better for the Good of All: Family, Community, USA, and Humanity! Evolution with peace builds upon the Good; Revolution with violence destroys all!
    US President R. Reagan said: “Through the years, Hispanic American Citizens have risen to the call of duty in defense of liberty and freedom. Their bravery is well known and has been demonstrated time and again, dating back to the aid rendered by General Bernardo de Galvez during the American Revolution”.
    *NOTE: WE live in an imperfect World that together we make better! But, there is the Good, Wrong, Bad, and Evil in every Group! We applaud the good; condemn individual bad actions! We should NOT discriminate; Generalize or Stereotype any Group for the sins of one or a few… History can’t be revised or erased…!
    (Dennis O. Freytes—Florida Veterans Hall of Fame; Professor (UPR)/Commander USA Officer School)
    *Juan Ponce De Leon and Crew sailed from Puerto Rico to our now USA-1513:

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