How Christopher Columbus Became an Italian-American Icon

Oct 09, 2021 808

BY: Olivia B. Waxman

Each year, the U.S. federal holiday of Columbus Day—which falls on Oct. 11 this year—is a source of pride for many in the Italian-American community, marking the anniversary of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus reaching the Caribbean. The 77th annual Columbus Day Parade, expected to take place on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue on Monday, is billed as “the largest celebration of Italian American heritage and culture in the United States.”

But, in the nearly 30 years since Berkeley, Calif., launched Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a form of counter-programming for Columbus Day, to recognize the Native Americans whose lives in North America were disrupted by European exploration, that embrace of Columbus has increasingly been questioned. The debate has at times set advocates of a more critical examination of the history against Italian-American community groups who see it as a day of celebration.

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