|By Kevin Devlin
"As Columbus supposed himself to have landed on an island at the extremity of India he called the natives...Indians..."
On Monday, October 10, 2005, the nation will take time to celebrate the discovery of the New World by an Italian navigator from the Old World, a world adventurer we all know as Christopher Columbus.
According to traditional historical textbooks, Columbus discovered America, but in fact, he never even saw the shores of North America, and he did not discover the continent.
Native Americans were already living here and "truly discovered America." In fact, thousands of years before this, Nordic explorers had traveled down the eastern coast of Canada. But, his achievement cannot be dismissed, for his discovery of the New World for Europeans would forever change history.
Columbus was motivated by the desire to discover a new and safer oceanic route to the cherished EAST, the East Indies, China, Japan, India, and their rich markets that the Europeans wanted more trade with. Self-educated and a chart maker, Columbus became convinced that the world wasn't flat and didn't end in the Atlantic. He felt it was spherical and he believed that if he sailed west for 3000 miles he would end up in Asia.
Born Italian, his dreams of discovery, his appetite for adventure and fame eventually were supported by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. And so the adventure began. On August 3, 1492, Columbus, in command of three small ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, along with 90 crewmen, sailed from Palos, Spain, across the Atlantic Ocean.
On October 12, 1492, at 2 a.m. the lookout on the Pinta, a seaman named Rodrigo de Triana, cried out "Tierra, Tierra!"(Land, Land!). Later that day, Christopher Columbus went ashore on the island known to the local inhabitants as Guanahane. He subsequently named it San Salvador, claiming the land in the name of Spain. Columbus thinking he had landed at the extremity of India named the local inhabitants Indians, a name that would be applied to all of the locals in this hemisphere from that day forward.
Well-known writer Washington Irving described Columbus' exciting landing in the New World in the following manner.
"As he approached the shore, Columbus...was delighted with the purity and suavity of the atmosphere, and the crystal transparency of the sea, and the extraordinary beauty of the vegetation. He beheld, also, fruits of an unknown kind upon the tree which overhung the shores. On landing he threw himself on his knees, kissed the earth, and returned thanks to God with tears of joy."
Although Columbus never did see the shores of North America, his discovery did result in the first intertwining of Europe with the New World, and, for better or worse, a new age was about to begin. His thirst for the unknown, his desire to succeed, and his incredible impact on world history are facts that cannot be denied.
Hundreds of years later, the New World would pay tribute to this man. The first known celebration of Columbus Day in the United States occurred in the United States on October 12, 1792. The Society of Saint Tammany, also called the Columbian Order, celebrated the 300th anniversary of his landing in the New World.
On October 12, 1866, the proud Italian population of New York organized a celebration of the discovery of America. In 1869, Italians in San Francisco celebrated October 12 and called it "Columbus Day." On the 400th anniversary in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation "urging Americans to mark the day."
In 1905, Colorado became the first state to observe a Columbus Day, and since 1920 the day has been celebrated annually. In 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed every October 12 as Columbus Day, and then in 1968, President Lydon Johnson declared the second Monday in October a federal holiday.