October 12th - Columbus Day 

Día de la Hispanidad, celebrates ‘Spanishness’, both in Spain and in other Spanish speaking countries. And why would that be celebrated just on the 12th October?

Because that was the very date when Columbus first saw America. The event is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Día de la Raza in many countries in Latin America, as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, and as Día de la Hispanidad in Spain.

These holidays have been celebrated unofficially since the late 18th century, and officially in various areas since the early 20th century. Since 1987, Spain has celebrated the anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the Americas as its Fiesta Nacional.

Previously Spain had celebrated the day as Día de la Hispanidad, emphasizing Spain's ties with the Hispanidad, the international Hispanic community. In 1981 a royal decree established the Día de la Hispanidad as a national holiday. However, in 1987 the name was changed to Fiesta Nacional, and October 12 became one of two national celebrations, along with Constitution Day on December 6.

Since 2000, October 12 has also been Spain's Day of the Armed Forces, celebrated each year with a military parade in Madrid. To commemorate it, there is a parade led by the military (usually held in Madrid) presided by the Spanish King, who is the Head of State. The Prime Minister also has a special role in the ceremony, only second to that of the King.

So what about Christopher Columbus.....he sighted land on his initial voyage of discovery on the 12th October 1492 and landed the following day on the island he named San Salvador, now part of the Bahamas

Columbus was a native of Italy, born in 1451 in Genoa to a middle class family. It is said he first went to sea at the age of 10. He married Filipa Moniz Perestrello, a Portuguese lady, around 1479/1480. They had a son, Diego.

With land travel between Europe and China becoming difficult during the later part of the fifteenth century, Columbus and his brothers developed a plan to travel west across the Ocean Sea (Atlantic). Many scholars disputed the idea as they said Columbus was lacking experience in navigation. Many sailors disputed it because they thought ships could not carry enough provisions to sail westward. Columbus petitioned several courts to fund his exploration, but without success. He then approached Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain. They agreed to his plans; however, their advisors found fault with his calculations and rather than lose his ideas to another country they paid him an annuity. Columbus spent two years in Spain negotiating and heel kicking and luckily, when Granada fell to the Spanish monarchs, they funded him.

It was agreed that Columbus was to be made "Admiral of the Seas" and would receive a part of all profits. The contracts stated that should he discover any new lands he would also be appointed Viceroy and Governor and receive ten percent of all the revenues in perpetuity. High demands and rewards, however, nobody thought he would succeed.

On third of August 1492 he set sail, at last, with three ships the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, stopping over for a short time in the Canary Islands. Columbus had neither discovered nor heard about the trade winds which prevail in the Atlantic – a brisk ‘easterly’ wind which pushed the three little ships across the ocean towards the Americas. However he knew to return home using prevailing winds northeastwards, where the winds curve back to the Iberian coast line, by using the North Atlantic's great circular wind pattern, clockwise.

When he landed on the 13th October 1492 the inhabitants of the island were quite friendly. Columbus thought he had reached the Indies so called these people Indians. The Santa Maria ran aground on the island of Hispaniola on Christmas Day and thirty nine of his men were left at the settlement of La Navidad, before the rest returned to Spain. He reached Spain on the 15th March 1493, and news of his success spread rapidly through out Europe.

He set sail again six months later with seventeen ships and around 1,200 men to colonise the regions. He was said to be a tyrannical governor of the lands he found, in fact virtually wiped out the Taino people native to Hispaniola.

He was accredited with many atrocities and in 1500 was arrested, placed in chains and sent back to Spain. He was summoned to court and after much discussion with the monarchs was reinstated with all his wealth and titles and an agreement to fund his fourth expedition.

On the twentieth of May 1506 he died in Valladolid of a heart attack. He was still convinced at his death that the lands he had found were along the east coast of Asia.