Columbus Day has become synonymous with Italian Heritage Day, a time in which Italian Americans remember the sacrifices made by their parents and grandparents, and the contributions Italian Americans have made in the U.S.
The time-honored Columbus Day parades began in the late 1800s as Italian immigrants strived to create a sense of self-esteem and dignity during a period where they were subjected to bigotry and prejudice throughout the country.
(ISDA President Basil Russo takes 5 minutes to explore why the holiday is valued by Italian Americans.)
The Great Arrival
The vast majority of first generation Italian immigrants took their first steps on U.S. soil at Ellis Island, following a grueling Atlantic voyage.
In the 1880s, they numbered 300,000; in the 1890s, 600,000; and through the turn of the century, more than two million. By 1920, when waves of migration began to taper off, more than 4 million Italians had come to the United States, which represented more than 10 percent of the nation’s foreign-born population.
Today, there are more than 18 million Italian Americans that carry on traditions and represent a heritage that has permeated American culture.
During Italian American Heritage Month, we rally together at parades across the nation to champion the noble and ever-evolving American spirit.
Columbus Day is not a holiday set aside to honor an individual, but rather it is a day to recognize a monumental historic event that began the process of over 500 years of worldwide immigration to this continent by people seeking a better life for their families.
In reality, it is not only a day for Italian Americans, but for all people of every race and ethnicity, to collectively celebrate the contributions each group has made to our country.
We plan to march for and promote these principles on Monday, and we hope you join us.
See the photo slideshow from Monday’s Columbus Day parade in Cleveland: