Nearly 520 years since the day Christopher Columbus first set foot in the Americas, his achievements remain clouded in controversy.
Columbus Day wasn't officially celebrated until 300 years after his discoveries, when a group called the Colombian Order organized a celebration in New York City in honor of the Italian explorer in 1792.
It would be another 255 years before President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 deemed October 12 a federal holiday. In 1971 it was moved to the second Monday in October, where it remains.
TIME noted that the holiday is just another day for many Americans. Aside from closed federal buildings and schools, many people do not think about the day very much. For many Italian-Americans, however, it remains a day of national pride.
Traditionally, cities celebrate Italian-American heritage and Italian contributions to America's success. Fairs, colorful clothing and Italian music can be sampled at many parades across the country, the largest of which is held in New York City, according to History.com .
Increasingly, however, many groups are searching for alternatives to the celebration or are protesting the holiday altogether.
Because Columbus' expeditions were fraught with genocide – four years after discovering San Salvador, for example, his soldiers had killed or exported a full third of the native population – it remains painful for many.
One hundred years after his landing in America, European exploration, and exploitation, resulted in the deaths of 90 million indigenous peoples. His own diaries detail the horrible atrocities committed seemingly at his behest, according to theholidayzone.com .
In Denver, the annual Columbus Day parade has drawn angry protesters in recent years, according to TIME, while other states sidestep the issue altogether. South Dakota celebrates Native American Day and Hawaii observes Discoverer's Day, noting the arrival of the first Polynesian settlers.
One recent Columbus flap occurred when the school board in Paterson, N.J., nixed any school closings, then reversed course and reinstated Columbus Day after being criticized for allowing a Muslim religious holiday in November, MyFox NY reported.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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