Italians Are NJ’s Largest Ethnic Group, But Columbus Wasn’t One


Many cities in New Jersey have canceled their Columbus Day events. Some proclaimed it Indigenous Peoples Day, due to the misconception that Christopher Columbus was responsible for the massacre of Native Americans.

Columbus was indeed a brave, brilliant and driven man. Anyone who dives deep into his exploits and accomplishments in North America will know the real truth. Part of the truth is that he was not Italian.

Why we have Columbus Day

Italian Americans, who were persecuted and marginalized when they first immigrated to America, sought to be validated and recognized as good people here in the United States. This is what prompted many to push for the recognition of Christopher Columbus as Italian and to recognize his contribution to this great country.

Where did Columbus come from?

Yes, it is true that he was born in the city of Genoa, which is now part of what is called Italy.

However, an examination of who he really was and his ties, if any, to Italy and Italians tells 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 even before Italy became 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 look at his writings and the symbols he used in his letters, especially to his son, the theory makes sense.

The whole truth about Columbus

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 also been misrepresented.

While his contributions should certainly be recognized, along with those of many Italian Americans who have made great contributions to this country, the two have nothing to do with each other.

Both of my grandparents were from the south of Italy and I am very proud of their origins and the sacrifices they made to come here, as well as the contributions they made while living in this country. However, I do not link this pride to the day honoring Christopher Columbus for his great achievements.

If you choose to do so, it’s fine. But it helps to know the truth, however inconvenient or uncomfortable it may be for some of my paesanos.

Who is Statue Worthy of Italian Americans?

The above post reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy. All opinions expressed are those of Dennis Malloy.

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