by Tommi Avicolli Mecca

I hate October 12.

It’s the day I’m supposed to wave la bandiera d’Italia, the Italian flag. I'm proud to be southern Italian, which means, in many cases, being mixed blood, witness my mother’s maiden name “Mecca.” That’s what happens when your land is colonized for 1500 years by every invading army that could muster up a ship and some weapons.

But wave il tricolore (the three colors) for Columbus? Hell no.

Why is Columbus even a hero to most Italian Americans? He had nothing to do with us. He may have been born in Genoa, but he sailed for Spain, not Italia. There was no Italia at the time he set off in the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Italia was a collection of nation states, including the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the south where my family barely eked out a living. 

Italia became a unified nation almost four centuries after Columbus, during what’s called the Risorgimento (resurgence or rebirth). At that time, Giuseppe Garibaldi freed the southern half of the country from Spain, which occupied it at the time. The northern Italian government didn’t exactly welcome the southerners and proceeded to tax the hell out of the already dirt poor farmers.

The result was a mass exit from il mezzogiorno, as southern Italy is called. 

La statua della libertà didn’t want exactly welcome those uneducated contadini (peasants) either. Just ask Sacco and Vanzetti, those “dago” anarchists executed for a murder they didn’t commit. Or those Italian immigrants lynched in New Orleans and Tallulah, Louisiana. Or those “experts” who proclaimed that we would never amount to anything because we were a separate inferior race.

Many of us who got off the boat at Ellis Island expecting streets paved with gold ended up organizing and fighting the inhumane working conditions we and other workers were forced to endure. Southern Italian women and men were in the forefront of the Lawrence textile strike in Massachusetts; the Mesabi Iron Range strikes; the Westmoreland, Pennsylvania mining strike; the Ludlow, Texas strike; the New York garment workers strike; two Longshoremen’s strikes; and so many other efforts to improve the lives of those who slaved long hours for next to nothing. 

About 100 Italian language anarchist newspapers flourished by the early part of the last century. One of them, Il Grido degli Oppressi (Cry of the Oppressed) described Columbus as “a man without principles, without any noble purpose, but consumed with the desire to plunder and command.” His conquest of the Americas, the publication declared, laid the groundwork for “racial prejudices and hatreds,” such as “the martyrdom of the negroes in the South.” 

According to Immigrants Against the State: Yiddish and Italian Anarchism in America (by Kenyon Zimmer), southern Italian anarchists “sporadically disrupted Columbus Day parades in Italian American communities.” The embracing of Columbus Day was and is not universal among Italian Americans, as it’s often believed. Rather, it was no doubt an attempt by the more assimilationist elements of the Italian immigrant community to gain more acceptance in a mainstream Anglo culture that saw us, at best, as marginal whites. Italian anarchists, on the other hand, believed that our advancement in this Anglo culture could only be achieved in solidarity with other oppressed groups.

Today, many of us grandchildren and great grandchildren of those Italian and Sicilian immigrants continue to believe in solidarity. We march with workers for a living wage; fight against queer and trans oppression; organize against racism, sexism, ableism and ageism; speak out for national healthcare for all; fight the criminalization of poverty and homelessness; and work against the gentrification and displacement of working-class people. We mobilize every day for social and economic justice, as our ancestors did a century ago. We see ourselves in the faces of those who are newly arrived in an America that, despite its reputation, has never welcomed immigrants. 

We want nothing to do with the legacy of this man called Columbus.

Click here to see my comments on the blue angels that fly over San ...

Views: 188

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on October 6, 2016 at 8:28am

He's a singularly rotten person to venerate.

Comment by koshersalaami on October 6, 2016 at 8:45am

Unless he turns out to be Jewish, which is sometimes alleged, in which case he's a great person to venerate. Kidding.

Of course Columbus wasn't a nice guy. However, he's credited with helping to prove the theory that the world is round and in starting the chain of events that led to the creation of the United States. That makes him a Big Deal, and people like being associated with a Big Deal, particularly if they focus on that rather than what the guy was actually like. Which, by the way, was the way most European explorers were. The Spaniards that followed him were the same or worse. And because he's integral to this nation's existence, and for years the existence of the United States was viewed more universally as a Good Thing, standing for Truth, Justice, and the American Way (oops, that's Superman), he was more universally venerated. 

So, in some circles you'll get an argument. If he hadn't done what he did, who would be better off and who would be worse off? Mixed answer. 

Comment by nerd cred on October 6, 2016 at 6:28pm

And I've read recently - no I do not remember where or why no reason for me to change my ways now - that it was well known before Columbus that the world was round. I'm not taking a side.

How much was C begun to be made a big deal of by Italians to differentiate themselves from the Mafia?

The Mesabi Range causes me Minnesotean confusion because there are so many people up there and from there who are neither German, Irish, German/Irish nor Scandinavian. 

Just think what our lives would be like if the Irish had never come here. I, for one, being a mix of protestant and Catholic Irish, German, Slovenian, would simply not exist. And Europe would be so much more crowded.

Comment by moki ikom on October 11, 2016 at 11:19am

Happy Bartolomé Day


The ugly truth about christopher columbus

Christopher Columbus: What Really Happened

This video is about the Horrible and Terribly True Facts about Christopher #Columbus & #ColumbusDay - The history of Columbus involves, Slavery, Sexual Slavery, Murder, Rape, Torture and horrible persecution of Native people that Columbus described as peaceful and generous. 

Please read my original article here -

Here is my entire list of resources -

Follow Human Rights Award-Winning Author, News Editor and Public Speaker Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on twitter:


Comment by nerd cred on October 11, 2016 at 12:33pm

Hey moki - have you given back your land yet?

Comment by moki ikom on October 11, 2016 at 11:43pm

Comment by moki ikom on October 12, 2016 at 2:07am


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