Growing up in Mexico, I was taught to observe Columbus Day as a national holiday to celebrate the discovery of America. Another name used for this holiday was Día de La Raza (Day of Race) in memoriam of the battle held by indigenous peoples and colonizers in 1492 after the New World was discovered by Genoese sailor Cristopher Columbus. It was called as such due to the mixture of races resulting from the encounter between the two groups, which is also known as the Encounter of Two Worlds (Europe and America). Back then, I wasn’t fully aware of the genocide and land appropriation perpetrated by the colonizers, not only in what is known now as Mexico City, where the Aztecs settled, but also where I am living now—Chumash Indian homeland.
Today, as I have learned more and educated myself about my own indigenous heritage and the fight for
recognition and land reclaiming indigenous communities have endured for centuries, I can say that things are starting to shift in the right direction—recognizing all the cultural, land, and linguistic destruction indigenous peoples underwent during colonization both in Mexico and the United States—although many things are yet to improve. In Mexico thanks to indigenous peoples’ organizations fight for recognition and respect, the Day of Race is no more and now it is called “Día de la Nación Pluricultural” (Multicultural Nation Day). In the US, since 2021, Columbus Day is now called Indigenous People’s Day. Just as the defunct holiday, it is celebrated on the second Monday in October to recognize the importance, resilience, and diversity of the indigenous peoples in the US.
According to the Pew Research Center, only 16 states and the territory of Samoa still observe Columbus
Day as an official public holiday, which means government offices are closed and state personnel have a
paid day off. In 26 states (California included) and the territory of Guam, the second Monday in October
is like any working day. However, Native American Day is celebrated on the fourth Friday in September
in California to replace Columbus Day.
In many countries, including Mexico, October 12 now is dubbed as the Day of Indigenous Resistance.
What is October 12 called in your country and are there any protests to recognize indigenous identities
fighting for their homelands and natural resources?