Is it time to say arrivederci to Christopher Columbus? A movement to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day has gained momentum in some parts of the US, with Los Angeles in August becoming the biggest city yet to decide to stop honoring the Italian explorer and instead recognize victims of colonialism, AP reports. Austin, Texas, followed suit Thursday. It joined cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver, that had previously booted Columbus in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day. But the gesture to recognize indigenous people rather than the man who opened the Americas to European domination has also prompted howls of outrage from some Italian-Americans, who say eliminating their festival of ethnic pride is culturally insensitive, too.
"We had a very difficult time in this country for well over a hundred years," said Basil Russo, president of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America. "Columbus Day is a day that we've chosen to celebrate who we are." The debate over Columbus' historical legacy is an old one, but it became emotionally charged after a similar debate in the South over monuments to Confederate generals flared into deadly violence in August at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. In Akron, Ohio, a September vote over whether to dump Columbus opened a racial rift on the city council that was so heated, conflict mediators were brought in to sooth tensions. Salt Lake City officials declared Tuesday that they would keep Columbus Day but celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on the same day.