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    • U.S. Celebrates Columbus Day


      Image credit: U.S. Army


      Today the United States celebrates Columbus Day, marking the anniversary of Europeans’ arrival in the Americas in 1492.

      Leading the expedition, Genovese explorer Christopher Columbus sought to locate a seaborne route to the Far East, bypassing the long land journey then needed to reach China and other Asian trading nations. With financial and material support from the Crown of Castile, he sailed from Spain in three ships, Santa María, Niña, and La Pinta.

      The fleet sailed for three months across the Atlantic Ocean, landing on the island of Hispaniola (present day Dominican Republic) on October 12, 1492.

      At first, Columbus and his men assumed they had reached Asia, not realizing they had in fact discovered a new continent. Because of this, the Caribbean islands discovered were named the West Indies, and their residents called Indians.

      These discoveries opened the Age of Exploration, and in the years to follow, countless other explorers and nations rushed west to unlock the secrets and wealth of North and South America.

      Expeditions in the century to come would fully open the Western Hemisphere to the rest of the world.

      However, with the arrival of Europeans came smallpox and other diseases that Native Americans had never encountered. As a result, epidemics ravaged local populations throughout the New World, killing many thousands in a matter of several years.

      Subsequent explorers and colonial governors also put great strain on native populations, taking slaves, abusing workers, and ruling harshly against their subjects.

      In the centuries that followed, Americans of many backgrounds have recognized the importance of Columbus’ discovery in light of our nation’s founding and its history.

      The first Columbus Day commemoration took place in New York City on October 12, 1792, then 300 years after the navigator’s arrival in the Americas. Since then the holiday has been set on the second Monday in October.

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