The main argument about ending a day honoring Columbus rests on a new look at the historical record. Recent scholarship has turned up old documents – from the administrators and priests of the Spanish settlement under Columbus (and his brothers) – with accusations of cruel practices and poor management, which ended up in charges that put him in jail on return to Spain. He was released, eventually, but not welcomed back to the new world. Yet his actions set the precedent for the colonizing mode of occupying the Americas – enslaving the native people and using them to extract resources such as silver and gold to send back to Europe. On this basis, he does not make a figure to honor on a national basis.
In addition, there are questions of his origins: whether he is actually Italian from Genoa, or something else. Historians and genealogists are on the case to determine if he might have been Portuguese, Catalan, or Ladino – as he communicated primarily in those languages, not Italian or Genoese and, with humble beginnings, was able to marry into Portuguese nobility. They are examining DNA from lines of descendants. The detective work is on!
Beyond this, there is the established fact of the Norse settlement of Newfoundland around 1,000, as well as perhaps other European visitors.
I love Italy! I have Italian American friends and wish them to be acknowledged and appreciated for contributions to this nation. I have Native American friends, too. Their memories are long, and the deserve to have their stories and contributions known and celebrated. As an Irish American, I don’t love St. Patrick’s Day – saints and drunken leprechauns – a day to celebrate cultural heritage, but not a holiday. Perhaps we and the Italian Americans can find a better way to represent ourselves and let the original inhabitants of America have a special day of recognition.