Friday, October 12, 2007

Another public holiday in Spain -- the National Day of Spain -- Fiesta Nacional de España aka Día de la Hispanidad aka Día de la Raza


Yes, today, October 12th, is another public holiday here in Spain: Fiesta Nacional de España -- the National Day of Spain. Oh, yes, it is also the date Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon) first landed in the Americas.
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There is a militaristic aspect to some of the holiday observances. Indeed, the Spanish Civil Guard also observes September 12th as the day of its patron saint, la Virgen del Pilar. Then there is the annual military parade, which marches past special reviewing stands that are set up in Plaza del Colon to hold the Royal Family, the Prime Minister and other powerful people, including those leaders of Spain's Autonomous Regions who deign to attend. (There are usually at least one or two who refuse to do so, as an act of protest.)
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In the Autonomous Community of Aragon, the holiday is more popularly observed as el Día de la Virgen del Pilar (the Day of Our Lady of the Pillar), since she is regarded by Roman Catholics as the patron saint of Spain. The holiday is particularly festive in the region's capital, Zaragoza, where floral tributes are made to the Virgin, including a huge cloak of flowers stretched out around her statue.
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The official name of the holiday is Fiesta Nacional de España. However, Día de la Hispanidad is it's popular name. In other parts of the Spanish-speaking world the day is also known as el Día de la Raza -- the Day of the Race. (To me it seems to lose something in the translation.) In Costa Rica it is the more politically correct Día de las Culturas (Day of Cultures), in Uruguay it is the more hemispheric Día de las Americas (Day of the Americas) and in the Venezuela it is the more revolutionary Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance). In the USA, where it is observed on the second Monday in October instead of the 12th, the holiday is known rather blandly as Columbus Day; although in the state of Hawaii it is called Discoverer's Day and in South Dakota it is Native American Day.
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Despite its 15th century roots, the holiday is a 20th century creation. In 1913 the Spanish politician Faustino Rodriguez-San Pedro proposed October 12th to the international organization known as the Ibero-American Union as a day to honor the ties between Spain and Latin America. In 1917 Argentina became the first nation to make it an official holiday. The following year it became a holiday in Spain, with other Spanish-speaking countries soon following suit.
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In 1926 Zacarías de Vizcarra, a Spanish priest living in Argentina, coined the word "Hispanidad," (which today can mean "Spanishness" , "Hispanic peoples" or "the Spanish speaking world,"). He proposed that it replace the use of the word "raza" (race, ancestry) in the name of the holiday.
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In 1958, following decades of debate, the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco officially re-designated the holiday as el Día de la Hispanidad. In 1981 the relatively new democratic government of Spain made it a binomial holiday -- "Fiesta Nacional de España y Día de la Hispanidad." The term must have have fallen out of political favor by 1987, as that was when the government deleted Día de la Hispanidad from the holiday's official name.
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So, that's a little bit about how the anniversary of a date in 1492 (the same year that Spain reconquered Andalusia from the Moors and ordered the expulsion of all unconverted Jews), on which an Italian immigrant (who had previously lived in Portugal and continuously referred to himself as a foreigner) leading three Spanish ships (because Portugal refused to provide them) landed on an island in the Western Hemisphere (although he believed he was in East Asia) creating a ripple that became a tidal wave of immigration, conflict, conquest, cultural annihilation, nation building and global transition, ended up as the National Day of Spain.
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Chao amig@s,
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Carloz

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