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October 12th commemorated in Mexico

In Mexico, Dia de La Raza (Day of Race) is commemorated annually on October 12th. Though different names are used for Dia de La Raza, all of them evoke a historical moment of the encounter between native peoples of the American continent and Europeans. The official name usually varies, and “Columbus Day” is popular.

Origin of Dia de La Raza

The origin of Dia de La Raza dates to the early 1900’s, when unofficially there was a commemoration of the new cultural identity, a result of the encounter between the indigenous peoples of America and the Spanish conquerors.

photo credit: Mexico Desconocido

The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), named the day El Día de la Raza, since at that time the so-called “mestizaje” was a productof Spanish and indigenous races.

In Mexico, the commemoration began at the initiative of José Vasconcelos, Secretary of Education, who also promoted the idea of the fusion of different cultures.

In 1917, members of the Mexican Congress approved this national holiday on October 12th.

In Mexico, in the 1980’s, there was wide discussion about which of two concepts would be the most appropriate for the commemoration: “Meeting between Worlds”, or “Invention of America”.

“Meeting of Worlds” was more in connection of a commemoration in that this was based on a historical event at a global scale. The event of the first contact of the inhabitants of the European continent with inhabitants of the American continent could be documented. This meeting led to an encounter of cultures and initial union between two different worlds, Europe and America.

The day was named for this fusion that was born of the encounter and known as the “Meeting of two worlds”.

Present Day commemoration

For some countries, the commemoration of Dia de La Raza on October 12th has now become the day of struggle and vindication of the native peoples. The day has been chosen to vindicate the positions of indigenous peoples in the Americas.  

At present, in Mexico, October 12th is designated by many as the “Day of Indigenous Resistance”.

Currently, throughout the continent, indigenous people are fighting for the recognition of their identities and ways of life, defending their territories and natural resources. Representative governments have been established and indigenous peoples claim their territorial and agrarian rights, defend their natural resources and lands, cultural identities, languages, and their self-determination.  They are vocal about taking history into their hands and building their present.

The United Nations recognizes the cultural and ethnic plurality of societies and declared the “Decade of Indigenous Peoples” in 1995-2004.

The General Assembly of the United Nations recently adopted a resolution that proclaims the period 2022-2032 as the Decade of Indigenous Languages.

Also, Mexico will host the High-Level Event in which the international community will define the goals and actions to be developed during this Decade.

In Mexico (and throughout Latin America), various demonstrations are held on October 12th to commemorate the “Day of Indigenous Resistance”, to recognize the perseverance, the struggle for dignity, the cultural and human diversity of the original peoples of the continent.

Did you know?

Christopher Columbus thought he had arrived on the shore of the continent of India.

This is how October 12th is known in other countries.

Argentina: Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity

Bahamas: Discovery Day

Belize: Pan-American Day

Bolivia: Decolonization Day

Chile: Meeting of Two Worlds

Colombia: Columbus and Hispanic Heritage Day

Costa Rica:  Day of Cultures or Day of Meeting of Cultures

Ecuador: Day of Interculturality and Plurinationality

United States: Columbus Day

Guatemala: Columbus Day

Dominican Republic: Day of Identity and Cultural Diversity and also, Day of the Meeting between Two Cultures, more than Columbus Day

Venezuela: Day of Indigenous Resistance

Bolivia, Honduras, Peru: Columbus Day