As an Italian-American, it pains me every year to see the pride of other Italians and Italian-Americans in the celebration of Columbus Day. This man was a disgrace; he had no values, no character, no heart.
In writing of his first thoughts about his first encounter with the people he met in the new world, who welcomed him and his men and gave them gifts, he wrote in his journal, “They should be good servants and intelligent, for I observe that they quickly took in what was said to them…” He went on to enslave and kill the generous and hospitible local Taino peoples while forcing them to fill his ships with goods and treasures of all kinds to bring back to royalty in Spain who funded his voyage.
Instead of celebrating Columbus, Italians and Italian-Americans should see him as a disgrace and replace his statue in the North End with such noble Italian patriots as Giuseppe Garibaldi. He was an Italian equivalent to Bolivar or Washington, who fought not only for the liberation of Italy from the French in the 1860s; but also alongside Brazilians for the liberation of the Brazil from Portugal; and alongside Uruguayans for the liberation of Uruguay from invading Argentinian forces. Garibaldi is an Italian patriot we can be proud of who fought for liberty, justice and independence at home and abroad—not enslavement and exploitation like Columbus. As Italian-Americans, let’s celebrate the Garibaldis and Malatestas (and of course the World Cup Champion, Azzuri!), not the Columbuses and Mussolinis.
Columbus Day should not be about Italians at all, but should be proclaimed, as many have suggested, “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in honor of the many people and heros who died and fought, and still fight for indigenous self-determination, independence and liberation. These people include the Taino, Metacom, Sandino, AIM, the Six Nations, the Zapatistas and many more.
Let us support and give homage to the struggle for self-determination, independence, dignity, justice, equality and freedom of indigeounous people in the Americas and all places in the face of over 500 years of conquest, genocide, enslavement and exploitation at the hands of brutal, ruthless, and disgraceful people such as Columbus.