Dia de la Raza

October 12.

On this day in 1492 two worlds collided.

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.

Dia de la Raza & Columbus Day – Contradicting Cultures

Battle of Boyacá – Colombia

August 7

Nearly two centuries after Simon Bolivar faced Spanish troops at the bridge of Boyacá on this day in 1819, Colombians still celebrate his victory as one of the defining moments of Colombia’s independence movement and of the independence of the entire South American continent.

As a military commander, Simon Bolivar was a master at turning disadvantages into advantages. His crossing of the high Andes prior to the Battle of Boyacá to meet the Spanish army has been compared in difficulty to that of Hannibal crossing the Alps.

“In this passage more than 100 men died of cold and exposure…No horse had survived. It was necessary to leave the spare arms behind and even some of those that were carried by the soldiers. When the army reached Socha…in the heart of the province of Tunja July 6th, 1819, it had dwindled to a mere skeleton…

The commander of the Spanish troops, General Barriero, controlled the road to Bogota, and Bolivar knew he had to attack quickly before reinforcements could arrive. Bolivar maneuvered his men around Barriero’s to attack them from behind, forcing Barriero’s army to abandon their entrenchments. Bolivar continued to keep Barriero’s army moving by leading his own men across the Sagomoso River, then feigned a retreat in order to capture the city of Tunja and restock arms and supplies.

By August 5, Bolivar had turned the tables, placing his men between Barriero and the capital. Barriero attempted to bypass Bolivar by crossing the river at the Boyacá bridge. However, Bolivar predicted this move and reached the bridge first.

The armies collided on August 7. Though their numbers were about even, Bolivar’s placement of infantry and cavalry allowed him to capture 1600 royalist prisoners, including Barriero and his officers, who were then executed.

When Bolivar entered the capital, he was applauded by the people who proclaimed him liberator of New Granada.

History of South America from the First Human Existence to the Present – William Frederick Griewe

Birthday of Simón Bolivar

July 24

Today citizens of Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia celebrate the birth of the Libertador of northern South America: Simón Bolivar. He was born on this day in 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela.

Simón Bolivar

Bolivar is one of the few people to have a country permanently named after him, and is the only person born in the New World to have been so honored.

Countries named directly after individuals

Belize – possibly from the Spanish pronunciation of “Wallace”. Captain Peter Wallace was a pirate commissioned by King James I to pillage Spanish ships in the region. He built his base at the mouth of what is now the Belize River. May also be from the Mayan “belix” meaning “muddy water”.

Bermuda – after explorer Juan de Bermudez, who arrived there in 1503.

Colombia – Christopher Columbus

Dominican Republic – after St. Domingo de Guzman, founder of the Dominican Order.

El Salvador – literally, “the Savior”, after Jesus of Nazareth.

Kiribati – from the Gilbert Islands, for Captain Thomas Gilbert.

Mozambique – possibly from sheik Mussa Ben Mbiki.

Philippines – King Philip II of Spain

San Marino – from St Marinus, an ancient stonemason who fled to the area to escape Roman persecution

Sao Tome and Principe – from St. Thomas. Portuguese explorers encountered the land on St. Thomas’s Day. (December 21)

Seychelles – for Jean Moreau de Sechelles, King Louis XV’s Finance Minister.

Amerigo Vespucci is the only person to have a continent named after him, and he got two! The explorer helped prove that the lands Christopher Columbus encountered were not in Asia, but were entirely new continents. In 1507 cartographer Martin Waldseemuller labeled the new continents after the Italian explorer when he printed 1000 copies of his famous globe of the world.

Waldseemuller's Wall Map of the World

Waldseemuller’s 1507 Globe Map

Waldseemuller’s 1507 Wall Map

Colombia – Independence Day

July 20

Colombia has two Independence Days…

Colombia declared its independence from Spain on this day (July 20) in 1810. Back then the country had to wait nine years to see its dream come to fruition—Spain finally met defeat on August 7, 1819 at the Battle of Boyacá—but now Colombians need only wait two weeks after Independence Day for August 7th to roll around, so they can celebrate all over again.

Colombia is home to the second largest Spanish speaking population in the world after Mexico. Colombia produces 12% of all the world’s coffee, and 95% of the world’s emeralds. It’s the size of France, Spain and Portugal put together, and it’s the only South American nation with coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Despite being one of the three most bio-diverse countries on the planet, Colombia has had to work hard to combat its dangerous image on the nightly news.