October 12, 2018 by Iván

Día de la Hispanidad: origins of this celebration


Today, the 12th day of October is the most important day for all Spanish speaking countries together: the Hispanic Day (Día de la Hispanidad).

As we already posted back in 2015 and 2016, today isn´t only Spain´s National Day, but also a public holiday in other Spanish speaking countries. Why ?

First, we would need to make sure that we understand what the term Hispanidad means (according to the Royal Academy of Spanish language Dictionary): 1. Generic nature of all peoples coming from a Hispanic language and culture | 2. Community and group of Hispanic peoples.

Therefore, we could say that Hispanicity (the English term equivalent to Hispanidad) regards to a multi-cultural community of countries sharing their blended culture and the Spanish language.

Despite the fact that Columbus had believed, that he arrived to Asia the 12th of October of 1492, and hasn’t realised until his third expedition that, indeed, he had arrived at “the New World” (it was Fernando de Magallanes the first one who reached Asia by sailing west), this festival not only celebrates the anniversary of his arrival to America, but also something beyond: the bonds of union and communication between Spanish speaking countries.

When in 1913 this celebration was first added to the calendar in Spain, it was named by Faustino Rodríguez-San Pedro “Festival of the Race” (Fiesta de la Raza), following a request to United Nations from the previous year (1912) to have an official commemoration the 12th of October to celebrate Spain’s arrival to the American continent.

In 1915 the celebration was renamed to “Day of the Race” (Día de la Raza). However, the term “race” implied very negative connotations that were bringing additional tensions between Spain and Latin American countries. This issue was pointed out several times by relevant people on both sides of the Atlantic; two of the most important ones were:

  1. Ricardo Monner-Sans (Consul of Spain in Hawai) who was invited to this celebration in Argentina and managed to change the name to Fiesta hispanoamericana (Hispanic American celebration). In his speech, he pointed out that October 12 shouldn´t be the festival of any specific race, because in the 20th century he only could see the human race.
  2. Zacarías de Vizcarra (Spanish Catholic priest based in Argentina) who proposed in an article published in the magazine Criterio, that Hispanidad (Spanish speaking world) should take over the term Raza (race) for this festival´s name.

Back then, Hispanidad was an outdated term from the beginning of the 20th century. However its use was restored in 1926, thanks to the many requests that followed the ones previously mentioned. In 1931 Ramiro de Maeztu, ambassador of Spain in Argentina, wrote an article in the magazine Acción Española titled La Hispanidad. In this article he pointed out: “The 12th day of October, wrongly named day of the race, it shall be in the future the Hispanic Day”.

Finally Raza was substituted by Hispanidad (Spanish-speaking world or Hispanity) by the Royal Academy of Languages of Spain in 1935.

Nevertheless, since the Spanish civil war, which took place between 1936 and 1939, this festivity’s name returned to Race’s Day and it was not until 1958 when Franco’s dictatorship declared it Spanish National Day and took back the term Hispanidad.

After the democracy was established in late 70’s, during the 80’s the nationalist character of this day gradually turned into fraternity and harmony, although the Spanish army parade chaired by the kings still remains nowadays.

During this period, different governments sought to smooth things over with Latin America through this festival. However some countries decided to not celebrate this festivity and removed it from their holiday calendars.

American nations adopted different terms to name this anniversary. Some of them are :

  • Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in Mexico and Colombia, which kept the original festival´s name, but focused on recognition and acceptance of indigenous dignity and culture
  • Día de la Diversidad Cultural Americana (Day of the American Cultural Diversity) in Argentina
  • Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of the Indian resistance) in Venezuela and Nicaragua, which pays tribute to those native Americans who fell fighting against the Spanish conquerors
  • Día de las Culturas (Day of Cultures) in Costa Rica
  • Día del Descubrimiento de Dos Mundos (Day of the Discovery of Two Worlds) in Chile
  • Día de la Descolonización (Day of the Decolonisation) in Bolivia
  • Día de los Pueblos Originarios y del Diálogo Intercultural (Native Peoples and Intercultural Dialogue Day) in Peru
  • Día de Colón (Columbus Day) in United States
  • Día de la Lengua Española (Day of the Spanish language) in United Nations

From EIL, we wish all of you a joyful Hispanic Day !!

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