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Columbus taking possession of the new country. Published by the Prang Educational Co., 1893

Columbus taking possession of the new country. Published by the Prang Educational Co., 1893

Columbus Day celebrates the Arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492.

Columbus was the European Explorer who claimed the discovery of the New World in 1492, although he probably was not the first European to land there, and definitely not the first person to live there.

There were many reasons that Spain sent Columbus to discover the New World, and why many other nations sought it. One was that they were looking for a faster passageway to the East Indies, which had much-desired varieties of spices. Previously, to get to the East, you would have to brave the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, only discovered in 1488 and very dangerous. Very few men wanted to sail there. Another reason that this new passageway was important was because it could lead to new treasures. However, very few dared to wonder what was beyond the Atlantic Ocean. There were many rumors of Sea Serpents, and also of the End of the World, the “End” referring to what happened when you sailed off the edge of the world, back then believed to be flat. There were many risks, and even though they may seem silly to you now, the Europeans did not know what would happen.

The question was: who would gain the many riches? The answer is: Spain, of course! The first European nation to discover the New World was also the first nation to exploit it, which it did during the entire 16th Century.  Spain conquered the Incans and the Aztecs and exploited the mountains of riches, especially gold and silver, that the Native Americans had. The Spanish had two advantages: 1. They had better equipment than the Natives, and 2. The Natives were not immune to European diseases, which resulted in them dying in the millions. The Spanish easily conquered South America, but by this time other nations were looking to America with greed. Soon, England and France created their colonies and empires in the New World. This undoubtedly would bring much conflict in the future.

Columbus Day became a national holiday in 1937, though it was celebrated many times before then. Some people nowadays believe that Columbus Day should not be so, because of the unfair treatment of the Native Americans, but it remains a holiday.

What are your thoughts on this very important day in history?