Mexican philosopher Jose Vasconcelos coined the term La Raza Cósmica, the Cosmic Race (for lack of a better word), to describe the people of Latin America, and what he considered the future of the human race. Vasconcelos theorized that:
“the different races of the world tend to mix ever more, until forming a new human type, composed of the selection of each of the existent peoples…”
…and that the Americans were a mixture of all races: the Asiatic tribes who crossed over the Bering Strait, and the Iberian colonizers and African slaves who crossed via the Atlantic. Vasconcelos’s theories were not without bias: “A religion like Christianity advanced the American indians, in a few centuries, from cannibalism to a relative civilization.” But you will hear echoes of Vasconcelos’s optimism on Dia de la Raza.
Raza means “race”, but not entirely in the English sense of the word. In the context of the holiday, raza refers to the birth of a new breed of humanity, the synthesis of cultures, races, religions, and ideologies that make up Hispanic America today.
Thus, Dia de la Raza, takes this day of tragedy and turns it into a celebration of life across Latin America.
In Argentina and Uruguay July 20th is Día del Amigo, Friend Day. It’s not a public holiday, but more in the vein of Valentine’s Day—just a day for old friends to get together or strangers to get to know each other. It was promoted by Dr. Enrique Ernesto Febbraro, a professor of psychology, music history and dentistry, who was inspired by the feeling of global communion that swept the world as millions of folks all over the planet tuned in to watch or hear about the lunar moon landing on July 20, 1969.
Writes California blogger Disco Shawn upon visiting Argentina:
My first thought was to dismiss the whole thing as some sort of Hallmark holiday [but] …Apparently Febbraro’s efforts have paid off, as many Buenos Aires restaurants have been booked solid for a week or more. In 2005 part of the Argentinian cellular network crashed on Día del Amigo under the strain of so many people calling and texting their friends and loved ones.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the Lunar Moon Landing by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and that other guy. For that reason, scientists have also proclaimed July 20th Moon Day. Moon Day hasn’t made as deep an impact as Earth Day yet, but if South America keeps up Día del Amigo, July 20th may give April 22nd some competition.
“To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold—brothers who know now that they are truly brothers.” — Archibald MacLeish
Día del Amigo is not to be confused with International Friendship Day, which was proclaimed in 1935 as the first Sunday in August, and which to the best of my knowledge nobody really celebrates.
El único momento de la vida en que me siento yo mismo es cuando estoy con mis amigos. — Gabriel García Márquez
April 19 is the anniversary of the “Landing of the 33 Patriots” in Uruguay, also known as the Treinta y Tres Orientales, though it’s safe to say none of the 33 “Orientals” ever set foot in Asia. They were called ‘Orientales‘ because Uruguay was known as the Banda Oriental, or the “Eastern Bank” of the Rio de la Plata, the western shore being Argentina.
In a span of less than ten years—1807 to 1816—the Banda Oriental and its capital city of Montevideo were occupied by the English, retaken by the Spanish, and invaded by the Portuguese.
In 1816 Portuguese Brazil took Banda Oriental from the north, ousting the province’s hero Jose Gervasio Artigas in 1820 and forcing him into exile in Paraguay. The Banda Oriental became a province of Brazil, which achieved independence from Portugal in 1822.
In 1825 a group of exiled Uruguayan fighters called the 33 Orientals returned from Buenos Aires. They were led by Juan Antonio Lavalleja, who had fought with the exiled Artigas. The 33 Orientals secretly crossed the Plata River, landing on the Eastern Bank on April 19. There they planted what would be known as the flag of the 33 Orientals and took an oath to kick the Brazilian government out of Uruguay.
Four months later, on August 25, 1825, Uruguay officially declared its independence from Brazil. After 500 days of fighting (the Argentina-Brazil War), Brazil recognized Uruguay’s independence in 1828.