Columbus’ own origins could be enough for Italian-Americans to reconsider any desire to promote the Genoan as the symbol of their contributions.
As the Library of Congress has noted, the explorer himself would have reason to be perplexed by any pan-Italian ethnic devotion: When Christopher Columbus set foot on American soil in 1492, he launched a flood of migration that is still in motion, and that transformed the continent completely.
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.
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.FDR’s decree can be attributed to political expediency, with Italian-Americans emerging as an important urban voting bloc.Much of the mythologizing of the explorer can be traced to Washington Irving’s , published in 1828.“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.Inspired by political pragmatism, sustained by the internalized oppression that props up the zero-sum game of American racialism and celebrated as a misguided expression of ethnic Italian pride, Columbus Day (Oct.9) has as much validity as a US national holiday as one devoted to Robert E. Separated by more than three centuries, these men had in common one overarching belief: their God-given right to perpetuate slavery.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.As an Italian-American, that precise connection resonates in a visceral way, given our own sidelong history in a country that enshrined the enslavement of its black population in its constitution.Eighty-four years of commemoration are enough.“The European market in African slaves, which opened with a cargo of Mauritanian blacks unloaded in Portugal in 1441, and the explorer Christopher Columbus, born in Genoa ten years later, were closely linked,” Peter Nabokov wrote at the start of his 2016 essay “Indians, Slaves and Mass Murder: The Hidden History” in The New York Review of Books.