The origins of October 12th: Day of respect for cultural diversity

Every year in Argentina they celebrate the Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity. This blog post will tell you all you need to know about this interesting and unique public holiday, which falls this year on the 12th of October.

This holiday is called Columbus Day in the USA, and it commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492. They have celebrated in the states since as early as 1792, although celebration in the Southern hemisphere took a little longer to take off; the first occurrence of the holiday in South America was in Argentina in 1917. 

The name The Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity is a bit of a mouthful, although it hasn’t always had that moniker. When it was first celebrated in Argentina it was called Día de la Raza - meaning “Day of the Race” (referring to the Hispanic race of Columbus and his crew) - indeed, it is still known as Día de la Raza in many South American countries. It began as a celebration of the Hispanic influence on the Americas, but over the years, Día de la Raza changed into more of a counter to Columbus Day, celebrating the diverse cultures that make up modern South America, from the indigenous population to those of Hispanic heritage. This is in line with the fact that the arrival of Columbus brought many bad things as well as good. The name was officially changed in Argentina in 2010 by the President, making the holiday much more inclusive and celebratory. In fact, a statue of Columbus that had resided near Casa Rosada - the Argentine equivalent of the White House - was moved, and replaced with a statue of Juana Azurduy, an important figure in the struggle for independence who had indigenous ancestors.

The people of Argentina celebrate this holiday by having a day off work to spend time with their families. Around the country, there are also parades and other celebrations, specifically honouring the diverse culture and rich heritage of the country.

Around South America there are many different names for this holiday. In Colombia, it is called El día de la Raza y de la Hispanidad - meaning Day of the Race and Hispanicity - meant to celebrate the crossover of the two cultures - Hispanic and indigenous - and to reflect on the cultural richness this has added to the culture. In Peru, it is called Día de los pueblos originarios y el diálogo intercultural: meaning Indigenous Peoples and Intercultural Dialogue Day. In Venezuela, the day is called Día de la Resistencia Indígena, meaning Day of Indigenous Resistance; a day specifically to commemorate the Indigenous peoples' resistance to the European settlement. In Costa Rica, it’s called Día del Encuentro de las Culturas (Day of the Encounter of Cultures) which is similar to Argentina’s name for the holiday. It is also celebrated in other countries globally, including Italy, Spain, and several Caribbean nations. 

Now you know more about this interesting public holiday, maybe this October 12th you can reflect on the voyage of Christopher Columbus, and the cultural impact the Hispanic people have had on the Americas.