Italians are NJ’s largest ethnic group, but Columbus wasn’t one (Opinion)
Many towns in New Jersey have canceled their Columbus Day events. Some have proclaimed it Indigenous Peoples' Day, stemming from the false notion that Columbus was responsible for the slaughter of Native Americans.
Columbus was indeed a brave, brilliant and driven man. Anyone who does a deep dive into his actual feats and accomplishments in North America will know the real truth. Part of the truth is that he was not Italian.
Italian Americans, who were persecuted and marginalized early on in their immigration to America, were seeking validation and recognition as a good people here in the United States. That’s what drove many to push for the recognition of Columbus as Italian and to recognize his contribution to this great country.
Yes, it is true that he was born in the city of Genoa, which is now part of what is known as Italy.
However, an examination of who he really was and what, if any, connection he had to Italy and Italian people tell a different story.
His parents were Sephardic Jews who left Spain and immigrated to the port city of Genoa.
Genoa at the time was a city-state for almost four centuries before Italy would even become a country. He did not speak the dialect of Genoa or Tuscany, which eventually became the Italian language. His family spoke Ladino, a hybrid form of Castilian Spanish, comparable to Yiddish, which was spoken by Spain's Sephardic Jewish community.
If you examine his writings and the symbols he used in his letters, especially to his son, the theory makes sense.
Not only has his reputation as a great explorer and contributor to the advancement of mankind been maligned but his religious and ethnic origins have been misrepresented as well. While his contributions should definitely be recognized, as well as those of many Italian Americans who made great contributions to this country, the two have nothing to do with each other.
Both sets of my grandparents came from southern Italy and I am very proud of their background and the sacrifices they made to come here, along with the contributions they made while living in this country. However, I don’t tie that pride in with the day honoring Christopher Columbus for his great accomplishments.
If you choose to do so, all well and good. But it helps to know the truth as awkward or as uncomfortable as that may be to some of my Paesanos.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy. Any opinions expressed are Dennis Malloy's own.