By Isabella Petroni
FRAMINGHAM – Massachusetts is the home to many Italian-Americans who fled here for a better life.
It is also home to Native Americans who still live here. In this conversation, many are wrestling with the removal of a holiday that should be left behind.
I understand that many fellow Italian-Americans are attached to Columbus. I understand that my ancestors were told that they were un-American. I understand that we want to have pride in her heritage. But, celebrating Columbus Day doesn’t celebrate our heritage and it actively harms people who are fighting to not be invisible to this day.
I did not start this cause. The Native Americans of this state and across the country have started this cause. They are continuing to fight at the local level, at the state level, and at the national level. They and their allies have continued to march through Boston protesting the holiday, even during the pandemic.
For many Native Americans, autumn is referred to as a painful time due to Halloween and cultural appropriation, the holiday still celebrated in our city, and Thanksgiving giving a false narrative of history.
We, as a nation and as a city, must do better.
Columbus Day should not be celebrated. We should give it to the people who have survived 500 years and continued to be here. Theirs is a narrative of resistance in the face of institutionalized white supremacy. Columbus’ narrative represents genocide, racism, and cultural intolerance. Massachusetts has a long history with this. But, we should start here.
There are plenty of other Italian Americans we can celebrate, especially in this state.
During my time in AP US History, we learned about Sacco and Vanzetti. They were two Italian Americans who were unjustly executed by the state for a crime they did not commit. The reason they were charged was because of their immigrant status and their political activism in workers’ and immigrants’ rights. They are two Italian Boston boys who are still not honored in their own state. If the state is to be replaced in Boston, statues of these two should be placed there instead to remind us to continue to fight for the rights they fought for.
In addition, Columbus’ voyage led him to the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Many Framingham immigrants are the descendants of the indigenous people that Columbus and subsequent explorers murdered, whether through genocide or through disease. It would be a disservice to our Hispanic and/or Latinx Americans to let the name of a mass murderer remain celebrated.
The day would still be off and people would still be allowed to sleep in and travel over the long weekend.
The change of the name of the holiday has nothing to do with eliminating it as a day off.
It just means that we start putting our state on the right side of history and do right with our indigenous brothers, sisters, and siblings who are still resisting and living to this day
Isabella Petroni, 19, is a graduate of Framingham High School, and a current sophomore at the University of New England in a dual degree program. She lives in District 8, and is the founder and the chair of the Framingham Youth Council.