By Bill Miller and Jessica Easthope
MIDTOWN MANHATTAN — The Columbus Day Parade on Monday drew thousands of spectators to honor the famed explorer while joyfully proclaiming the contributions of Italian Immigrants to their new homeland — the United States.
The parade rolled down 5th Avenue with dozens of marching bands and floats from over 100 groups, including the Diocese of Brooklyn. Italian and U.S. flags waved beneath sunny skies and comfortable autumn temperatures.
Still, the 78th annual event preceded another push in Albany to change the official holiday’s name to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It also followed efforts around the U.S. to remove statues of Christopher Columbus from public spaces.
The new legislation, however, has received pushback from both gubernatorial candidates — Gov. Kathy Hochul and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. Both marched in the parade, and both criticized the idea of changing the holiday.
Shortly before the parade stepped off, Angelo Vivolo, president of the Columbus Heritage Coalition, who also helps run the parade, said that the support from both candidates was a relief.
View this post on Instagram
“We’re very fortunate,” Vivolo said. “Gov. Hochul and Congressman Zeldin both committed that should any legislation come to their desk to nullify or to do away with Columbus Day, they would veto it. So we have confidence in that.”
Vivolo said his group resists scrapping Columbus Day or holding it concurrently with an Indigenous People’s Day. Therefore, the group promotes separate days for both.
“We think it’s a disservice, a disrespect to both communities, both cultures,” Vivolo said. “We just want it to be on a separate day.”
The day started with a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was concelebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York, Bishop Robert Brennan, and Bishop Emeritus Nicholas DiMarzio, who delivered the homily. Auxiliary bishops from the archdiocese and diocese also concelebrated.
During the homily, Bishop DiMarzio recounted the struggles of Italian newcomers to the U.S. a century ago. He also drew comparisons to the plights of modern-day immigrants coming up from the border with Mexico.
Later, he remarked that many of the statues targeted for removal were commissioned by immigrants and their succeeding generations.
“Poor people gave money because they were proud of Columbus, that he discovered America,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “What did they know about what everybody else was thinking 75 years later?
“But people have rewritten history, and now they say that he discovered America and everything that came after was his fault. That one doesn’t work.”
Sponsors of the Bill to change Columbus Day, Assemblywoman Marcela Mitaynes (D-Brooklyn) and state Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) — both claim indigenous roots. They plan to push the proposal forward when the state Legislature reconvenes next year.
The legacy of Columbus is associated with colonization and western expansion that ultimately decimated native cultures.
Vivolo countered that Columbus was an “evangelist.”
“He wanted to spread Christianity throughout the world,” Vivolo said. “That was his goal. And he did it.”