Columbus Day commerates Christopher Columbus' discovery of the American Continent on October 12, 1492. It is a national holiday in many countries in the Americas, and is also celebrated in Italy and Spain. In the United States, the holiday is called "Columbus Day", while in many countries in Latin America it is known as "Día de la Raza" ("Day of the Race") and as "Día de la Hispanidad" and "Fiesta Nacional" in Spain, where it is also the religious feast day of la Virgen del Pilar. It is also celebrated as Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas) in Belize and Uruguay, as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, as Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) in Argentina and as Giornata Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo or Festa Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo in Italy and in the Little Italys around the world. These holidays have been celebrated unofficially since the late 18th century and officially in various countries since the early 20th century.
Many Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage. The first celebration was recorded in New York City on October 12, 1866. However, Columbus Day was first enshrined as a legal holiday in Denver through the lobbying of Angelo Noce, a first generation Italian. The first statewide Columbus Day holiday was proclaimed by Colorado governor Jesse F. McDonald in 1905, and it was made a statutory holiday in 1907. In April 1934, as a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus and New York City Italian leader Generoso Pope, Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed October 12 a federal holiday under the name Columbus Day.
Nowadays, the largest Columbus Day celebration and parade is held in NYC every year.
Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci is best known for his namesake: the continents of North and South America. Why were these continents named after him, as his voyages happened after Christopher Columbus’ famous 1492 voyage to the American continents?
It is partly Columbus’s own fault as he insisted that he had reached the Asian continent, as previously described by Marco Polo and other European travelers. On the contrary, when Vespucci reached the Americas, he immediately realized that these continents were distinct from the ones previously known to Europeans, Asians and Africans. In other words, Amerigo Vespucci was the first person to recognize the New World.
In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the new continent America after the feminine Latin version of Vespucci's first name, Americus. In the book accompanying the map, Martin Waldseemüller stated: "I do not see what right any one would have to object to calling this part after Americus who discovered it and who is a man of intelligence, Amerige, that is, the Land of Americus, or America: since both Europa and Asia got their names from women".
Christopher Columbus was born in 1451 in the Republic of Genoa to Susanna Fontanarossa and Domenico Colombo, a middle-class wool weaver. However, no one knows his exact birthday and birthplace, and some historians argue that he was from the Aragon region of Spain. Columbus started working on ships at a young age. In one of his writings, he wrote that he went to sea at the age of 10. Hard-working and ambitious, Columbus, without much formal education, eventually learned Latin, Portuguese, and Castilian. He was an industrious reader, and read about astronomy, geography, and history. From his hundreds of notations in the books, we can see that he had a very good command of astronomy, geography and navigation.
The Silk Road had become dangerous with the fall of the Mongol Empire, and other routes were sought to continue the lucrative trade with Asia. An eastward route was pioneered by Portuguese navigators, who had rounded the southern tip of Africa in 1488.
Meanwhile, Columbus learned of Alfraganus's estimate, from d'Ailly's Imago Mundi, that a degree of latitude spanned 56⅔ miles. Unfortunately, he did not realize that this was the Arabic mile rather than the shorter Roman mile. He therefore estimated the circumference of the Earth to be about 30,200 km, whereas the correct value is 40,000 km.
In 1485, Columbus presented his plans for a westward Asian route to John II of Portugal. He asked the king to give him three sturdy ships to search for the route. As compensation, he requested that he be made "Great Admiral of the Ocean", appointed governor of any and all lands he discovered, and be given one-tenth of all revenue from those lands. This proposal was flatly rejected by the king and his experts. He was turned down again in 1488. In addition, when presented with this offer, Henry VII of England refused to fund him.
Finally, Columbus gained the support of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1492 after 2 years of negotiation. Columbus got the deal he had originally proposed to Portugal and England. With Castile backing, Columbus completed four round-trip voyages to the Americas from 1492-1503. These voyages have significant impact on world history, as they mark the beginning of European colonization of the American continents. However, Columbus himself insisted that his fleet had reached Asia and not a new continent.
Amerigo Vespucci was born on March 9, 1454, in Florence, Italy. The Vespuccis were a prominent family and friends with the powerful Medicis, who ruled Florence for more than 300 years. Unlike his brother, Vespucci did not go to the University of Pisa to pursue scholarly careers. Instead, he was educated by his uncle. As a young man, he was fascinated with books and maps. He worked for the Medicis as a banker and later supervisor of their ship-outfitting business, which operated in Seville, Spain.
Between 1499 and 1502, Vespucci participated as an observer on several voyages, which explored the east coast of South America, at the invitation of king Manuel I of Portugal. During the first of these voyages he discovered that South America extended much further south than previously thought. Between 1502 and 1504, two of Vespucci’s letters were published. In these letters, Vespucci gave a detailed account of his voyages, as a result, his expeditions became widely known in Europe.
In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the new continent America after the feminine Latin version of Vespucci's first name, Americus. Vespucci's real historical importance may well rest more in his letters, from which the European public learned about the newly discovered continents of the Americas for the first time.