Wednesday, June 16

Controversy in New York over the removal of Columbus Day from the school calendar


Following last minute negotiations, the school calendar will include a holiday on October 11 under the name Indigenous Peoples Day / Italian Heritage Day to replace Columbus Day.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in a file image.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in a file image.Richard DrewAP
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The New York public schools have decided to remove the traditional holiday of Columbus Day, a movement that has generated a strong controversy in the city and that has led to a kind of compromise that replaces the celebration with a Day of Indigenous Peoples / Day of Italian Heritage.

Columbus Day, a federal holiday in the United States that is celebrated around October 12, has been renamed in recent years in several states and cities as a result of pressure from activists who denounce the alleged ill-treatment of the discoverer and his forces to the American Indians.

In most cases, the celebration has been replaced by a Indigenous Peoples Day, which is what the New York schools had also decided in the first instance, according to the calendar for the next course that they made public this Tuesday.

The decision, however, generated immediate condemnations, especially by leaders of the Italian-American community, in which many see that date as a tribute not only to the navigator of Genoese origin, but also to the inheritance of immigrants from Italy and their descendants, very numerous in the Big Apple.

Finally, after last minute negotiations, the school calendar will include a public holiday next October 11 under the name Day of the Indigenous Peoples / Italian Heritage Day replacing Columbus Day.

The mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, of Italian descent, assured this Wednesday that the initial decision had been made without consulting the or the municipal responsible for Education, Meisha Ross Porter.

“I think this process was not managed well,” De Blasio said at a press conference, in which he considered that the day should not have been changed “arbitrarily.”

“We have to honor that day as a day to recognize the contributions of all Italian Americans,” stressed the councilor, who defended the final commitment given the importance of also recognizing indigenous peoples, as has been done in other locations in the country.

“The process was not the right one, but the end result is going to be a day to honor Italian-Americans and indigenous peoples. I think it is a good way to go,” he noted.

The arrangement, however, was soon attacked by another illustrious Italian-American, the state governor Andrew Cuomo, De Blasio’s partymate but political enemy of the mayor for years.

“Why do you need to lower the Italian-American contribution to recognize the contribution of indigenous peoples?” Cuomo asked at a press conference.

The governor called the decision to merge the two commemorations “destructive” and defended that you can have an Indigenous Peoples Day without “meddling in Columbus Day,” which he guaranteed to remain a statewide holiday.

In recent years and in the face of calls to remove the famous Columbus statue that stands in the central rotunda of Columbus Circle, local politicians had already defended its maintenance as a symbol of the legacy of the Italian-American community, which was the one who gifted it to the city ​​in 1892

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