Christopher Columbus landed in the New World on October 12, 1492. A native of Genoa, Italy, his explorations were financially supported by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Columbus Day became a celebratory occasion for Italian American heritage, but to many it is an all-American holiday.
Rego Park resident Michael Conigliaro is a member of the Knights of Columbus Msgr. Sherman Council No.5103, who emphasized courage at a time when American values and beliefs are being questioned.
“We need to make sure that our children in schools are not being taught that Christopher Columbus was a criminal or a slave runner,” he said. “We need to have the courage to start teaching children from a young age, since there’s much negativity beginning in grammar school.”
Queens borough president candidate Joann Ariola expressed her pride of being an American of Italian descent.
“The Italians who came here for a better life in America worked hard for their children and gave them a better life than they could ever had,” she said. “They really invested in the country.
“I loved sitting at my grandmother’s knee and learning about where she came from in Sicily,” she added. “I loved the stories about how she came to America in 1914. My grandfather, from the town of Ariola in Naples, came here, raised his children, and became a businessman. They were so proud to be Americans.”
Congressional candidate Tom Zmich said that despite parades being canceled, this event signifies an interest to continue to gather and hold ceremonies to honor people who were heroic.
“What Columbus did by blazing the trail is an example of being heroic, since he didn’t know if he was coming back,” he said. “There were people who were blazing trails across the west and expanding our country. The pilgrims left England and came here afterwards for religious freedom. I know people who escaped communist China.”
Middle Village resident Vincent Armano said the ceremony honors his Italian American traditions.
“We are hard-working and law-abiding citizens, but most of all we are Americans who wanted to make sure that we are recognized just like every other group,” he said. “I would like to generate awareness of what Italian immigrants have done in the United States, and I want our image to be pro-American and pro-Democracy. I wish we would have more love than hate, and know that we have more in common than our differences.”