On March 2nd, Wellesley voters will be asked to vote on Question #1, which proposes to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day. Here are good fact-based reasons why we think you should vote NO on Question #1.
Indigenous Peoples have been rightly calling for a day of recognition and atonement. President Barack Obama answered their call in 2009 by permanently establishing national Native American Heritage Day, a civil holiday, on the Friday after Thanksgiving. With this holiday in place, we have the opportunity to visit the mistakes of the past as a community by acknowledging those mistakes and building a more comprehensive history that incorporates more voices moving forward.
Wellesley can celebrate both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day. Columbus Day was established to celebrate Italian-American heritage and was a response to the racist lynching of 11 innocent Italian men by an angry mob in New Orleans in 1891—the largest mass lynching in U.S. history. It was also intended to suppress rampant anti-Catholicism and the repression of Italian and Irish immigrants.
Columbus was not a murderer, enslaver, nor a proponent of harming Indigenous Peoples. There is great scholarship on this point from the late Harvard Professor Samuel Eliot Morison (Ph.D. Harvard) and Stanford Professor Emerita Carol Delaney (Ph.D. University of Chicago) to start. Tagging Columbus with a list of atrocities including “the destruction of indigenous cultures” is misguided. Columbus never set foot on the land that became the United States.
Canceling Columbus Day is anti-Italian. It cancels the celebration of a heritage because of the misrepresentation of its namesake, willfully ignoring its underlying purpose. Martin Luther King Day is celebrated by African Americans, St. Patrick’s Day by Irish Americans, Cinque de Mayo by Mexican Americans, and Lunar New Year by Chinese Americans.
Today, Columbus Day also speaks to immigration, diversity, and multiculturalism. Columbus opened the New World to immigration and to all of us being here in Wellesley today. Voting no on Question #1 will allow for a two-day celebration that will honor and respect all cultures in Wellesley.
Chair, Committee to Preserve Wellesley’s Italian American History
Paine Street, Wellesley, MA
#1 – Fake news? https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/aug/07/books.spain The loud few that are putting Columbus as a shining beacon of all things good cite a few sources [the same few each time] and say all of the mounds of other sources are mistaken. What’s in it for the majority of scholars that disagree? What is their angle for getting something out of this?
#2 – Columbus wasn’t Italian nor was anyone before Italy was formed. How is this anti-Italian?
#3 Why dig your heels in and insist Columbus is the highest possible figure for Italian-Americans to celebrate? I can’t imagine anyone honestly believes that at this point. Advocate for renaming the holiday and it would be far less divisive. What specifically is it about celebrating Columbus as opposed to Italian heritage is essential?
#4 – Martin Luther King Jr* Day is not intended to nor should it be celebrated by [only] African Americans nor should it in any way be used in an analogy of celebrating an explorer who was paid to find land.
Christopher Spagnuolo says
Thanks for reading my letter Jason.
#1 – I’m sure you are aware that much of the history before, during, and after Columbus involved behaviour we would find abhorrent by today’s standards… even practices of Indigenous People against one another and early settlers… maybe you could read/listen to this NPR story- https://www.npr.org/transcripts/136438816. Unite Wellesley isn’t here to judge or condemn any culture but rather respect and learn from one another and share our story.
#2 – Ask 100 people, “What culture/ethnic group identifies with Columbus Day?” and 100 people will tell you Italians. Ask 100 people, “Why was Columbus Day created?” and VERY FEW will tell you to honor Italians after years of brutal racism and discrimination… a fact and experience shared by many who were seen and treated as an ‘other’ as they immigrated to America. More specifically it was called Anti-Italianism. Visit http://www.unitewellesley.com and you can learn more about our culture and history.
#3 – Maybe you aren’t aware but supporters of NO on Question #1 DID offer to support changing the name to Italian Heritage Day but the response from WOW/IDP was that this wasn’t good enough… WOW/IDP demanded the only option was replace that specific date and erase Columbus which consequently would hurt Italian-Americans and that was shared as well rejected. UniteWellesley’s position is that we support a two day solution which would respect and honor ALL cultures and unite us as a community rather than divide us. I hope you will join us in that effort.
#4 – Rev. Martin Luther King Jr Day is an example, like other federal holidays, of celebrations and moments of reflection shared by all who care to participate in learning more about a story representative of a community in our country. In MLK’s case- African Americans. The respective community advocated for the holiday to be recognized by the nation and we should honor and respect that voice and community even if we are not ‘members’ of that community… we are, after all- all Americans, and at the very least we certainly all share a common humanity.
Thank you for your time.
Donna Ticchi says
Bravo, Chris! Well said and correct on every point.
Yeimy Garcia says
What is Cinque de Mayo? Do you mean Cinco de Mayo? It’s not a national holiday. Neither is Lunar New Year.
This point alone proves the racist undertones of this post. Think it’s not racist? Then, like Jason says, why do you think only African Americans celebrate MLK? Or that only the Irish celebrate St Patrick’s day? Last time I checked, many other cultures besides the Chinese celebrate Lunar New Year.
These holidays are meant to be inclusive … the way you describe Columbus Day is mean to be EXCLUSIVE.
Christopher Spagnuolo says
Thank you for commenting Yeimy. I really mean that… too often people online feel the need to be adversarial and mean. As you pointed out, I miss-typed the Italian word “Cinque” but I did mean “Cinco”. The point I was trying to make, as I’ve shared in my #4 response to Jason below, is to demonstrate that beyond national holidays like 4th of July, New Years, etc. we also recognize that cultures/communities have suffered during our history and we as a country have united to right those wrongs and honor our shared humanity via national holidays. That is why Unite Wellesley supports honoring and respecting ALL cultures vs. Question #1’s attempt to eliminate one culture to advance another. It’s unfortunate you think my typo and comparison of holidays and the culture/communities that fostered their creation somehow equates to racism. That is a very strong and harsh word. I’m sure you are aware that race is one of numerous categories relating to the act of discrimination and a protected civil right… as is ‘national origin’ (also referred to as ethnicity).
Question #1 is an attempt to purposely eliminate a day created for an ethnic group (Italian-American’s) in response to horrible discrimination and suffering (Anti-Italianism) here in America. Columbus Day is for ALL immigrants to share their experience both the good and the bad. Our hope is that NO group or community is targeted and discriminated against in any form, and that is why we support NO on Question #1. Question #1 is divisive and an attempt to cancel the culture and history of Italian-Americans and the immigrant experience. Instead, we support honoring and respecting ALL cultures with a two day solution. Wellesley can and should be better by uniting not dividing.
Lastly, when you wrote “Columbus Day is mean” I assume that too was a typo, this time on your part and you actually meant, meant… not mean. Mistakes happen.
If you’d like to learn more about why Unite Wellesley believes NO on Question #1 helps Wellesley to be a better and more welcoming community please visit our website at- https://www.unitewellesley.com.
Dan Kemp says
I suggest that anyone open to understanding the full range of Columbus’s deeds in the New World read Laurence Bergreen’s “Columbus – The Four Voyages.” The author gives Columbus full credit as an extraordinary navigator and explorer, but in chronicling the events of each of the voyages, he identifies situations in which Columbus engaged in violence against and enslavement of native people of the Caribbean. While he did far less harm than those who followed, he was hardly a paragon of human virtue.
Donna Ticchi says
Stanford Professor Emerita Carol Delaney spent seven years researching Columbus for her book “Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem” (2011). Her view of Columbus the man differs significantly from Laurence Bergreen description. Delaney wrote that Columbus did not engage in violence toward or enslavement of the Indigenous Peoples in the Caribbean. This view is also supported by the research of the late Professor Robert Fuson in his book “The Log of Christopher Columbus.”
The fact that there are such different views about Columbus should create reasonable doubt on events that may or may not have happened over 500 years ago.
For more information on Delaney’s work, please watch her video on http://www.UniteWellesley.com. Also, check out her 2020 letter to the Select Board at: