October 12th, is the day in which the Americas observe Columbus Day, otherwise known as the Day of the Americas or Pan American Day.
Belize celebrates this day with a national and bank holiday. This holiday commemorates the voyage taken by the Italian, Christopher Columbus about 500 years ago on behalf of Spain. Columbus made four voyages to the "New World"- in 1492 to San Salvador Island, Cuba and Haiti; in 1493-96 to Guadaloupe, Montserrat, Antigua, Puerto Rico and Jamaica; in 1498 to Trinidad and the mainland of South America and in 1502-04 to Honduras and Nicaragua. The discovery of the "New World" allowed European countries like Portugal, Spain, France and Britain to have empires around the world. These nations expanded their political control, their economic systems and their cultural influences in Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas and eventually world-leading countries such as Mexico, Canada and the United States.
The discovery of these worlds created a great clash of cultures in history, as people of various European and African nations came in contact and conflict with indigenous tribes and nations. These conflicts occurred in what was conceived to be the great continents of opportunity.
As far as Belize is concerned, Pan American Day celebrates the great migration of Mestizos and Indians (Hispanics) from Yucatan, Mexico into Belize in the mid 1800's. The people were fleeing an area torn with war and looking for a peaceful land where they could live in harmony. They came to settle and raised communities in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. They populated the northern areas of Belize but gradually extended their influences countrywide. Their primary input has been the Roman Catholic Religion, the Spanish language, the sugar industry and food.
Pan American Day is not only for the Mestizo and Indian citizens of Belize. Each of us has been influenced by the influx of Hispanics from Yucatan and from Columbus' great discovery. Belize's unique culture was born!
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