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~ Guest Commentary ~ We Get To Choose Our Own Heros And Columbus Is One Of Them

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By Sal Giarratani


The month of October has been called Italian Heritage Month set aside to honor our Italian-American brothers and sisters and the accomplishments of this ethnic community. However, in the very recent past, September 15 to October 15 has been declared Hispanic Heritage Month. I recently saw a poster on Hispanic Heritage month in which was stated, “Remember your past and remember your future to come.” Sounds nice but when it comes to Italian-Americans, we are told to pick better heroes, better role models, etc. We are told our heroes did terrible things to others.

As I read last week’s Revere Advocate (Human Rights Commission addresses the meaning of Columbus Day, October 12), I was disappointed in the very negative attitudes expressed by members of Revere’s Human Rights Commission. One member of the commission tears Columbus apart, “Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria” and then says he probably wasn’t even Italian.

One Italian-American member of the commission said most of us would really care if we dumped Columbus Day for Italian Heritage Day. He can speak for himself but he doesn’t speak for me or my fellow Pisans.

As far as who I honor as an Italian-American is the business of the Italian-American community at large. If most of us still like Columbus, then Columbus it is. Or perhaps, to make everyone happy, we could honor someone like Pat Cooper, who was a great comedian back in the day, or perhaps, we could choose Vito Corleone from the movies? How about Frank Sinatra or Vinny Barbarino from “Welcome Back, Kotter”? I’ll stick with Columbus, thank you very much.

Things have gone pretty badly over the past 50 years; where once we seemed to honor Columbus, today, the City of Columbus, Ohio doesn’t even honor him anymore. Keep Columbus Day, Columbus Day. We can also honor the Indigenous Peoples by creating a holiday for them, too.

Bottom Line, the Columbus Day holiday emanated from the largest mass lynching in this country back in 1891 when nine Sicilians acquitted at trial were taken out of their cells awaiting their release by an angry mob of nativists who hung the men until they were dead. We almost went to war with Italy and paid them reparations. The following year, 1892, President William Harrison declared a Columbus Day holiday due to the 1891 lynchings. We as an ethnic community got our own holiday due to a lynching. Today, we still get bashed for honoring Columbus. Hey, at least they stopped lynching us, huh?

Still to this day, it seems, Italian-American communities across this nation still get so little respect.

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