Officially sanctioning Columbus Day morphs it from a mere specious recognition of tribal pride into an exclusionary racial statement by the dominant political structure.
Commemoration of Confederate heroes runs aground on the same shoal.
She wrote that she saw the Italians “slave away until someday a cave-in, explosion or accident of some kind cuts their life short, leaving their wives widowed and their children fatherless.
They did not even need a grave, having been buried in the tomb in which they spent their whole lives.”In 1907, prodded by an immigrant printer from Genoa, Colorado became the first US state to mark Columbus Day as an official holiday.
Nowhere were things much worse for them in the early years of the 20th century than in the coal, gold and silver mines of Colorado, where my paternal grandfather was among those who did the dangerous work.
The missionary nun Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini would be staggered by a visit.Although Italy as a unified nation did not exist until 1861, the Italian peninsula has sent millions of its people to the shores of North America.These new arrivals thought of themselves as Neapolitans, Sicilians, Calabrians, or Syracuseans.They might not have understood each other’s dialects, but on arrival in the United States they became Italian-Americans.Then as now, the descendants of Italian immigrants have more in common in the US than their forebears might have had across the ocean.“The ensuing Age of Discovery, with its expansions of empires and exploitations of New World natural resources, was accompanied by the seizure and forced labor of human beings, starting with Native Americans.”Nabokov calls Columbus the “first transatlantic human trafficker—a sideline pursued by most New World conquistadors until, in the mid-seventeenth century, Spain officially opposed slavery.”It would be centuries more until the Civil War would end the practice in the US.Alongside slavery, the ravages of genocide, disease, colonialism and the rapacious ends of empire stand as the starkest consequences of the voyages Columbus undertook starting in 1492.The ongoing quest to celebrate Columbus as a point of pride in a country where Italian-Americans have struggled for acceptance is understandable.They have been lynched and scapegoated in some of the most infamous cases in US history.(A large share of the monuments across the American South were erected decades after the war, in an effort to give more teeth to the Jim Crow laws that restricted the rights of black citizens.) You can preserve, protect and even defend history as you choose it in your own home or within the confines of a privately held space.Americans, especially in the form of their government, have no intrinsic right to impose those views on one another when it comes to public spaces and officially backed activity.