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Columbus Day Celebrations from Around the Globe

October 12th marks the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ 1492 arrival in the Americas, and Americans have celebrated the occasion in an official capacity since 1937.  While schoolchildren in the U.S. learn about the journey made on the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, the holiday has become more recognized as a day off from work and the unofficial beginning of the fall sale shopping season. Travelers interested in seeing how other nations with a connection to Columbus celebrate the day should take a long weekend trip to the following four places.

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1. The Bahamas

In the Bahamas, October 12th, once known as Discovery Day, is now celebrated as Heroes Day. Columbus’s initial landfall occurred on the Bahamian island of Guanahani, where he christened it San Salvador Island, and it’s now famous for its secluded and idyllic beaches. Like Columbus Day in the United States, Heroes Day in the Bahamas is accompanied by the closure of schools, banks, public offices, and most shops. This October, Heroes Day will be celebrated with a five day festival from October 8 to October 13, featuring traditional Bahamian food, drink, and performances.  Those wishing to visit during that time should stay on the main island, in Nassau, which has a range of hotel options to suit all budgets. Travelers looking to splurge should check out the luxurious Cove Atlantis resort, while those hoping to save should try the Best Western Bay View Suites.

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2. Mexico

In Mexico, Columbus Day is celebrated as Dia de La Raza (“day of the race”). Dia de la Raza is a public and bank holiday, but that’s where the similarities with the U.S. celebration of Columbus Day end. Many activists in Mexico, and other Spanish-speaking countries, have chosen to reclaim the day as a celebration of indigenous life and traditions, because for these nations, the arrival of Columbus from Spain led to nearly all of Central and South America’s eventual colonization by the Spanish. Thus, the Dia de La Raza has become a celebration and remembrance of the mixing of peoples and cultures. In Mexico, the Dia de La Raza has been celebrated countrywide since 1928, with Mexicans celebrating both their Spanish and indigenous roots. First-time visitors to Mexico should try staying in Mexico City, the capital and the country’s largest city. Mexico City boasts a population comprised of many people with indigenous roots, coming from all over the country. Try staying in downtown’s Hotel Imperial Reforma, offering a great location at a hard-to-beat price, or the upscale and charming Green Park Hotel.  

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3. Spain

As Spain’s Queen Isabella was the monarch backing Columbus’s fateful expedition, it’s no surprise that the explorer’s journey to the Americas is a holiday known as the Fiesta Nacional, which celebrates the diversity of the worldwide Spanish-speaking community. However, the day is shared with two other significant events: the Day of Armed Forces, marked by an extravagant military parade, and the feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar, the patron saint of Spain’s Civil Guard. Those wishing to be in Madrid for the assorted festivities should stay at the affordable yet luxurious Hotel La Moraleja or the ultra-modern Urban Hotel, both located in the city proper.

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4. Italy

Travelers wishing to learn more about the explorer himself should try to take a trip to Italy, particularly Columbus’s homeland of Genoa. While Italian-Americans have long celebrated the explorer in the U.S., with San Francisco’s Italian Heritage Parade and New York City’s Columbus Day Parade being notable celebrations, his home country has only started feteing Columbus more recently. In fact, Columbus Day is not a national holiday in Italy, but his native Genoa hosts celebrations. In recent years, Americans living in Genoa join local politicians for a ceremony and reception at Columbus’s home, restored in 2001. Visitors to Genoa should stay at the budget-friendly and conveniently located Hotel Continental Genoa or the upscale Clarion Collection Hotel Astoria Genova.