As a proud Italian American who cares about the importance of Italian-American heritage and our contributions to California and the nation, I object to recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day on the same day that Italian Americans celebrate their heritage.
Italian Americans celebrate Columbus Day and Italian-American Day on the second Monday in October each year. This is the day the Columbus Day holiday is observed at the federal, state, and local levels nationwide.
We Italian Americas consider the Columbus Day holiday to be our Italian-American holiday and see the proposal to declare the same day Indigenous Peoples Day as taking away our holiday and replacing it with a holiday for another cultural and racial group.
The Columbus Day holiday has become synonymous with Italian-American Heritage Day, a time when Italian Americans remember the sacrifices made by their parents and grandparents, and the contributions Italian Americans have made to the United States.
The time-honored Columbus Day celebrations in America began in the 1800s as Italian immigrants strived to create a sense of self esteem and dignity during a period when they were subjected to enormous bigotry and prejudice throughout the country. The Italians in California have been celebrating Columbus Day since their arrival.
The Santa Barbara Resolution states that “the City of Santa Barbara honors residents reflecting all ethnic, racial, and national identities.”
But to Italian Americans, this Indigenous Peoples Day proposal does not honor or respect us, and that is the problem with the proposal. Rather, it puts another group’s day of celebration on the same day that we have always celebrated our heritage and our identity.
Columbus Day is a holiday observed by the majority of Americans. There is no real reason to replace the Columbus Day holiday traditionally observed and celebrated by Italian Americans and many other Americans on the second Monday of October each year unless it is to take away and replace the traditions of those people.
Santa Barbara does not recognize either Italian-American Heritage Day or Columbus Day. Perhaps it should.
I request that the City of Santa Barbara not name the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day but select a different date for Indigenous Peoples Day. I further request that the Santa Barbara City Council recognize Italian-American Heritage Day on the second Monday in October, our traditional day of celebration.
Bill Cerruti is chair of the California Italian American Task Force.