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The Columbus Day backlash spreads in America


Hollywood, MD - Back in the day, the holiday known as Columbus Day was always October 12. Now, with the mandating of Monday holidays to create three-day weekends, the holiday is movable. Today, however, marks the 525 anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. The United States is not the only country that marks the anniversary of Columbus’ arrival. Italy, Spain, Belize, Uruguay and many Latin American countries mark the day with observances.

As pointed out earlier this week in a story by Jacey Fortin of the New York Times Columbus Day has always encountered controversy in the U.S.A. Fortin quoted a Baptist minister who declared, Columbus was “cruel and guilty of many crimes.” The clergyman made those remarks 124 years ago, in 1893. A year earlier, President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing as “Discovery Day.” One hundred years earlier—on the 300th anniversary—celebrations of the occasion had been held in New York and Boston.

Fortin pointed out that during the 19th and 20th centuries, Columbus Day was a day of celebration for Italian-Americans and Catholics. The Italian component of Columbus Day became problematic in America during the mid-1930s with the rise of Fascism in Italy, which was led by the notorious despot Mussolini.

Now Native Americans have an ax to grind with the Columbus Day holiday. The protesting natives have made significant headway in their effort to eradicate Columbus as an historic figure worthy of a holiday. This past August Los Angeles became the largest U.S. city to remove Columbus Day as an official holiday. Instead LA celebrated Indigenous People Day. Other cities that have bailed from the Christopher Columbus bandwagon include Minneapolis, Phoenix, Seattle, Austin and Denver. That latter city is significant since Colorado was the first state—in 1905—to officially observe Columbus Day.

This has been a rough year for statues and Christopher Columbus’ sculpted image has been no exception. The Washington Post reported a statue of Columbus in Yonkers, NY “was found beheaded.”

For their part, many Italian-Americans are fighting to keep Columbus Day as a day to show pride in their heritage. The New York Post quotes Order of Italian Sons and Daughters of America President Basil Russo as stating, “Columbus Day is a day we have chosen to celebrate who we are. And we are entitled to do that just as they [Native Americans] are entitled to celebrate who they are.”

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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