Cultures Day a Holiday By Many Names

October 12, 2007

Five hundred fifteen years ago today, Christopher Columbus landed – by mistake – in what would become the Americas.

In the United States, It is known as Columbus Day. In much of Latin America, the day is commemorated with a holiday called Día de la Raza (“Race Day”) symbolizing the meeting of indigenous peoples and Europeans.

In Costa Rica, the name was changed in 1994 to Día de las Culturas, or Cultures Day, because of the “racist” undertones behind using the word “race,” said Gabriela Villalobos, a historian at the NationalMuseum.

“The human race is a race,” she said.

Around the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival, historians and anthropologists began to discuss the meaning of the day, Villalobos said. After much lobbying, the Legislative Assembly changed the name of the holiday to Cultures Day.

The feriado, or legal holiday, will be observed Monday, Oct. 15; banks, schools, government agencies and some businesses will be closed.

Other countries have also changed the holiday’s name; in Venezuela, it is now called Día de la Resistencia Indígena (“Indigenous Resistance Day”).

 

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