Columbus Day commemorates the day around October 12, 1492 when the expedition of Christopher Columbus sighted land in what is now the Bahamas and the Americas.
Columbus Day 2020
Monday, October 14, 2020
Columbus Day 2019
Columbus Day 2019 is celebrated on Monday October 14, 2019.
Many of our national narratives were put in place to create one people out of many. There was a lot of myth-making that we now know was not true. Even the date is wrong, but that is what we were taught.
At least it was mostly well-intentioned, although it’s become inadequate for who we are as a country today.
Here at the magazine, we get a raft of complaints from many communities about Columbus Day. We now know that Columbus was a dishonorable man who brought great riches to a few and unimaginable horror to many. Yet, for better and for worse, few individuals have had a bigger impact on history than Columbus.
But before we complain, it might help to take a walk in someone else’s shoes.
The Columbus Day celebration was put in place in the United States to stop racial violence against Italian-Americans when we were the new immigrants.
The Columbus Day celebration was put in place in the United States to stop violence against Italian-Americans when we were the new immigrants.
We just learned this on this very weekend.
The big wave of Italian migration (1890-1920) came shortly after the legal end of slavery in the United States in 1865. The new immigrants did work previously done by Africans. Southern Italians were comfortable with the Black community, lived in Black communities and intermarried.
So the institutional racism of the day began turning against Italian-Americans. The racism of the time was so violent that it is impossible for us today to fully comprehend it. Lynchings, murders, rapes, maimings, burnings – you cannot process the inhumanity. People don’t want to talk about it, but we really did this.
The situation begs the question that if it was so bad for Italian-Americans, what was it like for African-Americans and Indigenous-Americans? It was far worse. Also, why do we still act this way? It’s 2019 and nobody can claim ignorance.
This is why the Columbus Day celebration is dear to Italian-Americans. It was the pathway to escaping violence and being accepted. Nobody looks down on Italian-Americans anymore.
Columbus Day is the big celebration of our Italian-American-ness. Italian-Americans are one of the communities who helped define who we are as Americans of the United States.
We can all be proud to be Italian-American, Hispanic-American, Indigenous-American, or whatever kind of American you are. We are a country of Indigenous people and immigrants.
But we have work to do to continue building our country. The only way we will make any real progress is by working together.
On Columbus Day, let’s celebrate our common humanity.
This is a U.S. national holiday on the second Monday in October that commemorates the sighting of land in what is now the Americas by Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492.
In New York City, Columbus Day is the world’s biggest celebration of Italian-American culture.
Columbus was financed by the Spanish, but he was Cristoforo Colombo, an Italian from Genoa. In Spanish we call him Cristóbal Colón. In Portuguese he is Cristóvão Colombo.
It’s a big day for Spaniards and Native Americans too. The events put in motion by the arrival of Columbus made the Spanish and later the Portuguese rich, but led to the destruction of many Native American cultures.
In New York City’s Columbus Day Celebration
New York City’s Columbus Day celebration is a big deal for New York City’s Italian-American community. Celebrations include a Gala Dinner, a Columbus Circle Wreath Laying, a Columbus Day Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Columbus Day Parade.
Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The festivities start with a Columbus Day Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 9:30 am. Tickets are required for entry before 9:15 am. After that it is unlikely there will be much room to enter.
The Day is Controversial
We Native Americans see Columbus Day as a day that celebrates the genocide of us.
We Italians and Spaniards, see Columbus Day as a day of great pride in our heritage.
It’s impossible to understand someone else’s point of view, unless you live their lives.
How do you satisfy the pride of one group without insulting another?
Maybe the solution is to change the name to Italian Day. Italian-Americans have made far more important contributions to United States, than the rediscovery of the Americas.
Rome spread Italian culture across the Mediterranean. The Italian Renaissance is the foundation of Western Civilization. There is no bigger contribution than that.
Italian day is something we can all celebrate. And if we made the day a celebration of both Columbus and America’s Indigenous peoples, we could all celebrate together. That’s the American way I was brought up to believe in.