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Dia de Hispanidad : October 12th

By The Equalizer - Sat 8th Oct 2011

Dia de Hispanidad - or 'Spanish Day' - is celebrated throughout Spain and the Spanish speaking world to celebrate the anniversary of the date when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the new world : October 12th 1492.

Today the anniversary is marked in Spain with a special parade being held in Madrid's Plaza de Colon, led by the Spanish military and followed by the King and the Royal Family. Many other authorities, from foreign diplomats stationed here in Spain to the representatives of the Autonomous Communities, are invited to attend this parade. The Spanish Armed forces also fly through the air doing aerobatics with patriotic red and yellow smoke drawing images in the sky for the benefit of the crowd.

The king of Spain also supervises the raising of the Spanish national flag in the center of Madrid along with the Prime Minister, which forms a central part of the televised event.

Hispanic Day is a day off work, also known as a 'red' day, which is an opportunity to spend time quietly at home or in the company of family members and close friends. People in the Aragon region in the north-east of Spain also commemorate Our Lady of the Pillar, their patron saint, on October 12.

When the day falls on a Sunday, regional or local authorities can move the public holiday to a different date. If October 12 falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, many businesses and organizations take the 'puente' and so close on Monday, October 11, or Friday, October 13.

According to the Julian calendar (which was observed in Spain up until the adoption of the new and current Gregorian Calendar), Columbus set sail from the port of Palos de la Frontera in South-West Spain on August 3, 1492. He landed on a island that is now part of the Bahamas in the Caribbean on October 12, 1492.

Similar celebrations are held in other countries, with October 12th being known as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, Day of the Cultures in Costa Rica, Day of the Race in Argentina, Chile and Mexico and the Day of Indigenous Resistance in Venezuela. The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States.

However, national celebrations lauding the 'unity' of Spain are unlikely to be particularly well received in areas of the country which has traditionally seen a high level of support for pro-independence. With 2014's event taking place less than 1 month ahead of Catalonia's proposed referendum on independence on the 9th of November - declared "illegal and Unconstitutional" by Madrid - any celebration of National unity is likely to be popular with the masses.

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