Without understanding why Columbus Day is observed in the first place, the dialogue focuses narrowly on the atrocities committed by soldiers for Spain, led by misguided navigators looking for gold, killing a bunch of people, and thinking that they were on a different continent altogether. Columbus Day was not set aside to celebrate Spanish Imperialism and the conquering of Native Peoples.
THAT is NOT what Columbus Day is celebrating.
Let me explain:
We as a people, do not regularly celebrate such things, just as there is no holiday for the “celebrating” of the holocaust of Jewish people during WW2. Right? Stay with me, because some of the conversations I’m hearing are surreal, so here’s a little back story:
Columbus Day was founded as an Italian American recognition day, to celebrate the heritage and contributions that Italians have made in America.
As a side note, America was named after Amerigo Vespucci, NOT Columbus.
So when people mention “Columbus discovered America“
please feel free to remind them that they live in America, not Columbia.
Here is a little history of the conception of the intention to recognize the Italian American:
The Italians that immigrated from Italy in the 1800’s were highly prejudiced against here in “New England” and were treated as second class citizens, just as the Irish were mistreated when they immigrated from Ireland during the potato famine. This happened in New York, Boston, Philidelphia, Chicago, and many other cities that were growing up out of the woods and fields at that time. Finding jobs and overcoming discrimination were only compounded by the language barriers and the lack of opportunities provided to immigrants.
It was a consensus that America was a “new start” for downtrodden immigrants, (it still is) and so in order to get the official recognition that Italians needed, to be honored as an integral part of the fabric of this country, the Italians needed a big name to push through the idea to the politicians who would come to vote, and to finally recognize the Italian efforts of the laborers, fruit vendors, barbers, butchers, bakers, waiters, warehousemen, longshoremen, and any other “dirty” job that others wouldn’t take, all which played an integral part of creating the strength of this Country.
The politicians knew the anti-Italian sentiment in the country, and needed a big name to trump the prejudice that befell the Italian Americans, so they chose Columbus. This person, who sailed for the Spanish Crown, was actually Italian. And so this could show the anti-Italian public in America that the Italians were part of major history to this world.
To many second and third generation Italian Americans, creating a “holiday” would be an opportunity to provide a fresh assessment as to the contributions of the Italian Americans. They overcame discrimination, bigotry,and unfairness and proved loyal and valuable to the American fabric.
The day is actually celebrated in many other countries as well, this is NOT an American Holiday exclusively…
The day, known as “The Day of the Races“ (races meaning ethnicities, not competitive boat races) is a celebration of ethnic diversity, and recognized in Argentina, Columbia (from which got their name from Columbus) Venezuela, Costa Rica, and many islands in the Caribbean.
It is held to cherish the blending of cultures and a celebration of diversity of people’s when East met West, and the old world mixed with the new world.
Columbus had a big part in that, and that is why “The Day of the Races” is celebrated during this time of the Calendar, which coincides with Columbus Day.
The Spanish speaking peoples of many countries hold this concept in high regard and are very proud of their heritage.
Having a named holiday, one that talks about the Old World influence on the founding of these new lands: “The Day of the Races” means “a celebration of the meeting and mixing of races”
So, getting back to our conundrum in America, having an officially recognized holiday in America meant that the Italians would have a time to appreciate their heritage and celebrate the influence that Italian Americans had in America.
The Italians are very significant to settlement of the cities of this country during the 1800s and early 1900s, overcoming unfairness and injustice as immigrants, when America became less rural with more populations going towards the Cities at the beginning of the Industrial Age.
The intention at conception of Columbus Day was to honor Italian Americans.
Now to the people who have arguments without solutions, I say to you:
Let’s create 2 new holidays: 1 for the Italians and 1 for the Native Americans, leaving the South American Continental holiday “The Day of the Races” as it is: a celebration of the diversity of peoples.
We will have 3 different holidays for 3 different purposes, and no one could argue about the intention behind them, and no one could “re-write history” in order to further their cause. Also, no one can complain that their peoples are being left out, or disrespected.
The basis for all celebrations can be equally understood, equally positive, and therefore, the celebrations can continue.
Let me know what you think.
If you like this post, please share it, but don’t forget to eat some lasagna and celebrate Italian American’s today!
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