Columbus Day or Indigenous People Day

Rudy Giron: Antigua Guatemala &emdash; Captureing The First Steps

Let’s just celebrate our diversity today and everyday!

Today is a national holiday in Guatemala: Día de la Raza. So, I would like to share with you the face of cultural resistance in a world where identity is being erased or blended; in Guatemala the Maya women still represent a strong footing for the Guatemalan identity.

As I have said before, in Guatemala as in many countries in Latin America, October 12 is a national holiday known as Día de la Raza or Day of the Race. October 12 is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Día de la Raza in many countries in the Americas, as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, as Día de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional in Spain and as Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas) in Uruguay. These holidays have been celebrated unofficially since the late 18th century, and officially in various countries since the early 20th century.

So, once you know that in Guatemala the October 12 holiday is officially known as Día de la Raza and that in Spain is known as Día de la Hispanidad I found a little ironic that many people and the mass media in general in Guatemala use Día de la Hispanidad instead. This is, of course, a reflection of the Guatemalan idiosyncrasies and the low self-esteem. For a country where the indigenous or native population is the majority, many Guatemalans still tell you that their grandparents were pure 100% Spaniards. Another characteristic, or let’s call it a feature, of Guatemalans is how much emphasis is put on last names; like if by magic a Spanish-sounding last name could erase our mix ancestry.

© 2016, Rudy Girón. All rights reserved.

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  • Jeannine

    …. that is indeed something that is hard to understand for us visitors. The mayan people should be the most proud of their heritage, because it goes back at least a thousand years and they come from an ancient civilization. Besides personally I think especially the mayan women are extremely beautiful and I’ve seen so many who could be Top Models if they were a bit taller ;o) !!
    That alone is something they should be proud of and what can be more beautiful than the colorful traditional dress of a Guatemalan woman, right ? … and why would someone be proud of 100% Spanish heritage ? Again personally I would not be proud to be a direct descendant of the people who massacred and exterminated entire cultures all over the continent . The Atztecs and Inkas and countless other cultures might still exist if it wasn’t for the Spanish invasion… I think all indigenous people have something to be very proud of and it always makes me so mad to see how some rich white/ladino people treat them… They should realize the true wealth of Guatemala is it’s people and their culture. I never understood how there can be so many millionaires in the capital who don’t seem to care much about others… How can you just enjoy your rich life behind high walls and not do something against malnutrition a few kilometers further away ? How can you not use some of your money which you could never all spend anyway and build schools, hospitals or whatever ? Oh well… maybe I’m just too naïve, right ?

    • dg

      The Mayas have nothing to celebrate. Their raza has existed in the Americas for tens of thousands of years. October 12 acknowledges the race that was born out the initial contact between Europe and America. Why should anyone be “the most proud” of their heritage? Why should anyone not be proud of theirs? Your racism is showing Jeannine. If you live anywhere in the Americas and are not native American, you are enjoying the fruits of the genocide which you so quickly attach to the Spanish. The French, English and Dutch did their fair share. If you live in Europe, you most certainly enjoy the fruits of the pillage, rape and genocide of the whole world. Remind me Jeannine, where were the people of the US and Europe when the Nazis were murdering the Jews of Europe 80 (and not 500) years ago? We have problems in Guatemala but they will not be solved by well-meaning, paternalistic visitors. You are guilty of the same things you criticize, no matter how hard you try to hide it with self-righteousness.