Discovery Day in Puerto Rico

November 19th is celebrated in Puerto Rico as Discovery Day, or Día del Descubrimiento de Puerto Rico, as it’s known in Spanish. This public holiday commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the island near the end of the 15th century. When Columbus visited the island, he named it San Juan Bautista in honor of Saint John the Baptist.

However, this name did not stick, as later settlers to the island named it Puerto Rico—a name that means “Rich Port” in Spanish. Because this is a public holiday, many people have the day off, and some businesses are closed.

The History of Discovery Day in Puerto Rico

In 1493, Christopher Columbus embarked on his second voyage to the New World, taking with him over 1,200 soldiers and 17 ships. On November 19th of that year, he anchored in a bay on the northwest coast of what is now known as Puerto Rico. He named the island in honor of Saint John the Baptist by calling it San Juan Bautista.

Over the next 15 years, not many people paid much attention to the islands. However, Juan Ponce de León was given permission to explore the island in 1508. Because he found a large bay capable of harboring many ships at one time, he named this port Puerto Rico, a term which means “Rich Port.” Eventually, that name became the name for the entire island.

Observing Discovery Day in Puerto Rico

This holiday is observed with a number of special events all across Puerto Rico. There are parades, concerts, and cultural festivals. People can also look forward to fairs, and since it’s the traditional beginning of the Christmas season, it’s a time when many residents decide to put up their holiday decorations.

Where is it celebrated?
Puerto Rico (Bank/public sector holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
November 19 Tuesday
Next year (2025)
November 19 Wednesday
Last year (2023)
November 19 Sunday