Why we reject Cristoforo Colombo as a symbol of our community...
We've been asked, more than once, so we'll explain ourselves. Again. We've no attachment to Columbus. None. And, no, we don't support the lawsuit filed by Philadelphia Councilman Squilla and others over the elimination of Columbus (actually, Colombo) day.
Cristoforo Colombo had nothing to do with the Italian diaspora- predominantly from the south and regions of the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies- that created neighborhoods like South Philly. We've no desire to connect ourselves culturally or historically with Colombo, whose legacy is, at best, fraught. A slaver and authoritarian in the employ of reactionary Spanish monarchs (who launched the famous inquisition) has little to do with impoverished and disparaged "terroni," like my grandfather, who came to America seeking opportunity centuries later. That the figure of Colombo, what he represents, causes pain in multiple communities is manifest. We've no need to inflict pain on others to hold ourselves up. We've examples to emulate, learn from, and honor who are part of our actual history. Whether they are unheralded or not. We can proudly honor a community, not a single man.
We believe Italians in Philly do merit a day, but tying it to Colombo taints our contribution. There remains an opportunity here to truly honor the Italian immigrants who've impacted and continue to influence life in Philly (and elsewhere in America). We could discuss the experience of the diaspora, its trials, pain, and progress grudgingly bought. We could honor our actual ancestors, what was best about them, and, in the process, find a new mission (to never let the injustices visited on them be repeated on other arrivals). Actions like the Councilman's distract us from and obscure a very real and important history, our history, that needs to be told. It divides communities, including our own.