NEW YORK—Italian-American pride poured down 5th Ave on Oct. 14, in celebration of the man who discovered the New World.
It’s an annual holiday, and New York City—being home to the largest population of Italian-Americans—is no stranger to the Columbus Day Parade. But for years, this American tradition has met with opposition over the history of Christopher Columbus. The national holiday is being pushed to the side and being replaced by Indigenous Peoples’ Day in several states.
“The criticism is unwarranted, but everyone has the right to their opinion,” said President of the Columbus Heritage Coalition Angelo Vivolo. “I urge people to read the facts and find out the truth about Columbus.”
Governor Tony Evers of Wisconsin said in a statement that his executive order to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Wisconsin is to move on from a “dated practice that perpetuates inaccurate teachings and honors genocide,” and to recognize the “resilience, wisdom, and the contributions” of indigenous people.
Meanwhile, some from the Italian-American community say there are misunderstandings about the explorer. The Columbus Heritage Coalition and other websites have dedicated pages to facts and myths about Columbus, such as his contributions to the declining native American population.
“You can’t judge the actions of 15th-century people based on 21st-century norms,” said Rosalia Mesuraca, an Italian teacher from the Association of Italian American Educators. “Yes, there are some controversies, but it’s also true that we have to recognize the man for all his accomplishments.”
And referring to the city’s statue of Columbus, Governor Cuomo said people can find criticisms in just about every statue—but New York is a leader in unity, and it is possible to thrive together.