By Jessica Easthope
The latest move against Christopher Columbus isn’t a statue toppling to the ground but a holiday being ripped off the calendar. For the first time since it was announced that the New York City Department of Education removed Columbus Day from its calendar, Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in on the decision.
“This process wasn’t handled right, but the end result is going to be a day to honor Italian American heritage and a day to honor indigenous peoples and I think that’s a good way forward,” Mayor de Blasio said.
This week, New York City public schools replaced Columbus Day, which is celebrated on the second Monday in October, with Indigenous Peoples Day then later added Italian Heritage Day.
“Celebrate Italian-Americans with the day they always had, which is Columbus Day, and celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on another day,” said Andre DiMino, the executive board member of the Italian-American organization, One Voice Coalition. “Why dilute them both by putting them together? Now it’s a double insult and it shows that they didn’t really think this through.”
New York City has the largest population of Italians and Italian-Americans in North America. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio says it’s denying so many Italian-American students the right to learn about their culture.
“It’s not a good understanding of history to people who are teaching others history. I don’t think we want revisionist history, we want all history, teach all of history correctly,” Bishop DiMarzio said.
Those who oppose the decision say it’s not just an attack on Italian-American history, but a cornerstone of culture — the Catholic faith.
“When you think about it, it’s an attack on all the precepts of our background, including our faith,” DiMino said. “To go after Columbus and Italian-Americans who are very strong in their faith, as I am, and to go after Columbus and destroy our faith and our heritage is an attack on our history.”
“I hope all Catholics support Columbus because he does represent our community and our religion,” said Angelo Vivolo, the president of the Columbus Heritage Coalition.
Bishop DiMarzio says Columbus wanted to share Catholic teaching across the globe.
“He was a third order Franciscan, buried the Franciscan habit, he led his men in prayer on the boats each day, he brought missionaries with him,” said Bishop DiMarzio.
The Columbus Heritage Coalition says it reached out to the governor’s office for support and to the mayor’s office asking him to rescind the decision.
“We’re doing this in support of Italians, in support of Columbus but we’re supporting every ethnicity and every race so no one is discriminated against,” Vivolo said.
If it’s not overturned, the coalition says it’s prepared to take legal action.