In 1929, Italian American newspaper publisher Generoso Pope organized a parade in New York City to honor the great Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus.
Today, we march for Columbus as a symbol of unity.
He is symbolic of all immigrants’ highest ideals, starting with the ancestors of the indigenous peoples and all who followed in search of liberty, opportunity, and a better life.
He united humanity divided for more than ten millennia. Without the audacious Columbus, two great and diverse branches would remain isolated in ignorance, chained to a vast unknown. No other human event can compare.
The discovery of Columbus the navigator and explorer enriched and empowered Spain, spreading a new language, culture, and faith. We firmly recognize the wrongs and suffering that followed.
Four hundred years after Columbus and his first encounter with native-born tribes, Italians arrived in large numbers. In this new world, Italians suffered bigotry, exploitation, and ridicule. Through their sacrifice and resilience, they gave a gift to be preserved and perfected from generation to generation.
From Generoso Pope’s humble gathering, the National Columbus Day Parade has grown into a celebration that draws nearly a million spectators, viewers, and marchers.
They come to celebrate Italian and American culture and pride.
They come to remember the great explorer and his transcendent achievement.
And they come to affirm humanity’s universal and enduring thirst for knowledge, meaning, and a better life.
For millions of immigrants and their descendants, the Christopher Columbus statue is a deep-rooted public expression of pride, culture, and identity passed from generation to generation.
Expressive conduct is recognized under the First Amendment as a form of protected speech.
The recent attacks and the hateful defilement of Columbus and other statues are not mere acts of vandalism.
These are hate crimes.
They are hurtful to those who express their pride in their culture and in the accomplishments of their forebears.
It’s time for federal and state law authorities to investigate and prosecute hate crimes to the full extent of the law.
It’s time to drop the hate and seek the truth.
Aboard the Nina on the 1493 voyage home, Columbus crafts for the Spanish King a gripping account of first encounters on the island of Hispaniola. Click below to watch.