October 12, 1492, is of enormous significance in Western history: It is the day when explorer Christopher Columbus completed his journey across the Atlantic Ocean and landed in the “New World.”
What Columbus actually reached on that October day was an island he named San Salvador that is now part of the Bahamas. Columbus believed he had found a new route to India, and described the peoples he met as “Indians.” No matter — his momentous discovery launched European exploration and colonization of the American continents.
Today, “Columbus Day” is a federal holiday celebrated in the United States every year on the second Monday in October. The holiday continues to evoke discussions about the Age of Exploration and the transformations it provoked, including the injustices done to indigenous peoples. But for most Americans, it provides a long weekend to enjoy with their families during the early days of autumn.