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National Day of Spain: Celebrating the maiden voyage of Christopher Columbus

07:50 AM Oct 12, 2021 | Sophia Nowak

Palma: Today is a public holiday in Spain. It celebrates the arrival of Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the New World aboard the Spanish ships La Santa María, La Niña and La Pinta, to the island of San Salvador, now Guanahaní, Bahamas, on October 12, 1492.

The three-month-long journey, with its focus to find a new sea route to India, was financed by the Spanish crown under the leadership of the Catholic Kings. After his arrival, Columbus still believed that he had found a new route to India, and it wasn’t clear to the travellers until the Italian Américo Vespucio proposed this to be new unexplored land.

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After arriving at the first island, they reached what is now Cuba. Lastly, they set up the first Spanish territory in the New World on the island of Hispaniola, which accommodates the Dominican Republic and Haiti today. This started a long and bloody history of colonisation, leading to the point where it was said that in Spanish territory, the sun never sets.

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Today, this holiday is celebrated in most of the countries of the American Continent, though with different names that range between Hispanic Day, Day of the Races, Indigenous Peoples and Intercultural Dialogue Day, Columbus Day, or similar. Most of Spain takes advantage of this festivity to take a bridge day. Since this year, October 12 is a Tuesday, school kids and many working citizens had the day off on Monday as well and enjoyed a long weekend.

Further, in Spain, this day also commemorates the Virgin of Pilar and the Virgin of Guadalupe, the first one being the patroness of the armed forces. Each year a big military parade takes place in Spain's capital, Madrid, which is attended by the Royal family, government officials, and other important political figures. It also comes with lots of political discussions about this festivity and the state of the nation in general.

The best and most anticipated part of the military parade is the goat of the Legion. The Spanish Legion is part of the Spanish Army and Spain’s Rapid Reaction Force, formed in 1920 to act as part of the Spanish Army in Africa. In the democratic era of Spain, the Legion has participated in military tours to Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

The Legion has had many mascots, especially depending on where they were stationed. Their first in 1922 was a ram, later monkeys, boars, dogs, and even bears became mascots. These days, it’s usually the goat. It isn’t clear why and where the mascot of the Legion comes from. The only sure thing is that the goat is their most popular one and most of Spain awaits and only watches the parade to see the goat’s arrival. It is dressed in a mantel and a hat of the Legion as it dances along the pavement.

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