Monday, October 8, 2007

Columbus Day

It has become very politically incorrect to celebrate Columbus Day. I lived for many years in Latin America where the day is called the Festival of the Race and commemorates the creation of the Mestizo race of the Americas.

Columbus day and how it became a holiday is often lost and in these times of xenophobia and anti-immigrant feeling it is worth remembering. Columbus Day was first popularized beginning in 1866 among the Italian immigrants in San Francisco, in fact there is a Columbus Avenue that runs right through the Italian North Beach Neighborhood.

It is worth remembering that the same things that are said today about
Latin American immigrants was said about Italian Americans well into the last half of the 20th century. There was widespread racism and hatred of Italian Americans and all you have to do is look at the many Italian Americans who were lynched in New Orleans for racial reasons, Southern Illinois for labor involvement and of course the Sacco and Vanzetti trial to see how strong the racism was.

Many Italian Americans were forced to change their names and to disavow their identity because of this racism and yet hatred for European Immigrant groups is forgotten today- it is important to remember that the Germans, Irish, Italians, Jews and Slavs were hated in this country-- we were viewed as vermin and infestors of the society in the same way that Latin Americans are today and Columbus Day along with other holidays allowed us to show something of our culture to a hostile American nation.

So as an Italian American, who is married to a Latin American I celebrate the 12 of October not for who died or who were murdered by the Spanish but as a day to celebrate being an American, North, South or Central. The mixing of races and cultures that makes America from Alaska to the Tierra Del Fuego unique. I also celebrate the history of my people who left Italy poor and hungry and filled the US, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and many other nations with their best.

Whenever I hear the racists talking about the Latin American immigration to the US in a negative way I always have to remember that these immigrants are ME 40 years ago. That my 'whiteness' is fake and acquired and that there is no difference between us and to remember that we are one people.

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