Nowadays, Columbus Day is sort of the Italian-American Pride on Parade Day. Kind of a kiss me I'm Italian day. Which is a nice.
However, it conveniently omits the fact that even though he was born in Genoa, Cristoforo Colombo sailed for Spain, spoke and wrote in Spanish lived as a Spaniard and died in the land of Ferdinand & Isabella. He is buried in Santo Domingo Cathedral and his headstone lists his Spanish name -- Cristóbal Colón.
Before Columbus was adopted by the Italian-American community, he was adopted by the entire American community. Columbus worship reached a high here after our War of Independence ended in 1784.
After our wars with England (1776, 1812) we were looking for something non-English to hang our origins on. So Columbus was, dare I say it, discovered. The myth of a lone pioneer/navigator leaving the old world behind and discovering a new paradise far from Europe was a heck of a nice thing for American identity. So much so, that they named the area of their new Capital-- the District of Columbia.
America’s first corporate identity character (pre-Statue of Liberty) was a woman in a toga named Columbia (Columbia Pictures swiped her as a logo). King’s College in New York wanted to shed its Royal English name after the war and so went native by renaming itself --Columbia.
Columbus Avenue and Columbus Circle wouldn’t appear till years later when in the 1890’s we celebrated the 400th anniversary of the “discovery” of America.
The first recorded celebration of the discovery of the "New World" by Columbus was in 1792. It was held by the Colombian Order here in New York.
FAST FORWARD to October 12, 1866 when Italian New Yorkers organized a grand celebration. On October 12, 1869 Italians in San Francisco celebrated and declared it “Columbus Day.”