• 2017.10.31
  • Columbus Day
Columbus Day was celebrated around the world on October 12. As Patrizia Margherita, the Knowledge World Network Reporter based in Genoa, Italy mentioned in her article, Christopher Columbus (or “Cristoforo Colombo” in Italy, his home country) landed on an island off the coast of the American continent on October 12, 1492, which is now known as the day commemorating “Columbus’s discovery of America.” That said, what he discovered was a new western sea route to India, and Columbus himself believed till the day he died that he had landed in India. Remember that even now the islands of the Caribbean are called the “West Indies.”

But did you know that the name “Columbus Day” has recently come under question? It’s considered that a day of celebration named after an invader who went into the lands of other peoples without consent is inexcusable. Los Angeles in the US, for example, changed the name to Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year. I wonder if this approach would mean a change of name for all users of names such as Colombia or Columbus, including universities, record companies, large apparel manufacturers, and in the end, even the nation.

Here in Spain the day is called Fiesta Nacional de España. Not only is the day a celebration of Columbus’s exploits, it also celebrates the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the year 40 AD, one of Christ’s 12 apostles, James the Greater, was devoting his life to proselytizing in Spain, when, in prayer with his disciples by the river in Zaragoza town, the Virgen de Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar) appeared atop a marble pillar. Having assisted James the Greater, who was later to become the patron saint of Spain, Our Lady of the Pillar was honored with the title of Supreme Commander of the Spanish Armed Forces by royal decree in 1908. The feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar is October 12.

Our Lady of the Pillar is also to be found in Japan. This is Virgin of Pilar Appearing to Saint James in the Suma Collection in the archives of the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum. The work is attributed to Francisco Bayeu, an artist and the older brother-in-law of Goya.

Later on, a military parade in the presence of His Majesty the King became part of October 12.
The day also includes a ceremony in gratitude primarily to the souls of those who have given up their lives for the sake of the motherland, as well as to comfort the souls of Spanish people who have fallen victim to terrorist incidents on Spanish soil or who have been involved in incidents in foreign countries, in addition to the organizations that keep the Spanish people safe: the armed forces, national police, local police, ambulance, fire brigade, and so on. Another popular participant in the parade each year is, would you believe, a goat. It is the mascot of the Foreign Legion stationed in Melilla, a Spanish territory in northern Africa. This year the goat chosen for this moment in the spotlight was a doe called Roco.

The doe Roco cutting a gallant figure

After Columbus’s first auspicious visit to America (or India according to Columbus) in 1492, he returned three more times. His final voyage to America ended in Spain on November 7, 1504. Two years later, his life came to its end in Valladolid, the capital of Spain at the time. After a life full of seafaring exploits you would think that once his life ended, finally he would rest in peace, but perhaps because at heart he always was a seafaring soul, he continued to move around even after death. His coffin was relocated to Seville, the city key to trade with the new continent, then it was moved to Santo Domingo, the island where he landed on his first voyage, for his ninth trans-Atlantic crossing. From there, his remains were again transferred, this time to Cuba, then when Spain lost control of Cuba after losing the Spanish-American War, he again crossed the Atlantic to return to Spain. Ultimately, he found his resting ground in the Cathedral of Seville.

This is the tomb of Colombus enshrined in the Cathedral of Seville. His remains are borne by four young warriors representing the four kings of Castille, Leon, Navarre, and Aragon. If you look at the tip of the spear with a cross at the top, held by the young king of Leon with the lion coat of arms, you’ll see that it pierces a pomegranate. The Spanish word for pomegranate is granada, the same as the name of the province of Granada, referring to the fact that it was the last Islamic emirate on the Iberian peninsula to surrender.

The giant in the mural overlooking the tomb is San Cristóbal (Saint Cristopher). The name comes from the legendary “Christ bearer,” a man who bore the young Christ across a river (so, Cristobal, Christopher, Cristoforo). Saint Cristopher is known as the patron saint of travellers and the guardian deity for drivers, pilots, and transportation operators, and in Spain you often see cars with medallions and stickers featuring this saint stuck on the dashboard. They are just like the Spanish version of the traffic safety talismans from Narita Fudoson.

Just as an appendix, in Spanish, “Columbus” is “Colón” without the “bus.”


  • Susumu Yamada
  • JobSpanish and Japanese Translation

It’s been almost 37 years since I received a residence permit and work permit from the Spanish government and paid my first tax and social insurance premiums. Now that I’m at that age where I will soon go and register at the senior human resources center, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to introduce you all to this country that has taken care of me these many years.

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