Bill Heath

Senator Bill Heath

Columbus Day commemorates the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the “New World” in 1492. It was first celebrated as a federal holiday in 1937 but has been observed and remembered as a significant moment in the history of our country tracing all the way back to colonial times.

In an economic age driven by colonization and trade, Christopher Columbus, who was born in Genoa, Italy, received funding for his voyage from Queen Catherine on behalf of the Spanish crown and was charged with finding alternate trade routes to the Far East (Asia), Though Italian, the bond between Columbus and the Spanish monarchy was a shared Catholic faith. Through his landings in various points of the new world over the course of four voyages, Columbus established very profitable trade positions for Spain primarily in what is modern day Cuba, Hispaniola and northern South America.

A holiday similar to our Columbus Day is celebrated in a number of different countries, like Argentina, Belize, Uruguay, the Bahamas and Spain among others, for various reasons. Bahamanians refer to it as “Discovery Day.” Belize and Uruguay celebrate a holiday known as “Día de las Américas” (Day of the Americas). Many Catholics also celebrate Columbus Day by attending church services, given the Catholic missionary influence on Columbus’s voyages.

Since its adoption, there has been opposition to Columbus Day in the United States and elsewhere. After his voyages, Columbus became a governor of colonial territory and is believed to have had a subordinate view and subsequently condoned harsh treatment of the original inhabitants of the newly colonized lands.

Alaska, Hawaii and South Dakota are among a list of states that do not recognize Columbus Day. South Dakota celebrates “Native American Day”. Hawaii recognizes the Polynesians who discovered the islands with “Discoverer’s Day”.

Cities like Seattle and Berkley celebrate holidays similar to South Dakota’s that commemorate indigenous peoples.

As state and federal offices close on Monday, October 12 in observance of Columbus Day, it is my hope that the positive contributions of Christopher Columbus to what we know as the Americas in the Western Hemisphere of our world will be remembered and celebrated.

It is my honor to serve as the state Senator for Georgia’s 31st District. If you have a question, concern or issue that my office can assist you with, I hope you will not hesitate to contact me at billheath@billheath.net.