The New Haven Board of Alders voted to change the name of the Christopher Columbus holiday in the city, opting for “Italian Heritage Day.”
But some in the Italian-American community told NBC Connecticut it doesn’t make a lot of difference.
“You can name it that way, I’m still gonna say Columbus Day,” said Tom Aquaro, who grew up in Wooster Square. He says his heritage and connection to Christopher Columbus run deep.
“Whether I was going to St. Michaels school or I was going to Cross, I used to have to go over there to get a bus, and the statue was right behind me,” said Aquaro.
The move last night renames the holiday locally, and potentially the Columbus Day Parade when it returns to New Haven. Hosted by the Greater New Haven Columbus Day Parade Committee, it rotates between local municipalities. It was scheduled for North Haven this year but is postponed due to COVID-19.
“I know some people feel that it is Columbus Day and it will always be Columbus Day, but I think that in light of everything going on in the climate right now, I think it’s in the best interest that we focus on our Italian heritage,” said Laura Luzzi of the Greater New Haven Columbus Day Parade Committee.
“I’m excited that the Board of Alders last night voted to focus on what the Columbus Day parade means to so many Italians in the city. About uplifting Italian contributions to New Haven,” said Mayor Justin Elicker.
“I don’t see a problem with Italian Heritage Day, I do see a problem replacing the statue with a different statue,” said Peter Criscuolo Jr. of New Haven
And that remains a sticking point for some Italians, who say their identity is tied to Columbus’ accomplishments 500 years ago.
“The heart of the matter is the statue it should go back to where it was,” said Criscuolo. Three months after it was removed from its pedestal in Wooster Square Park, Columbus still sits in city storage.
Cruscuolo says nothing could replace the statue, but a committee of city officials, Italian Americans, and neighborhood groups are working on what goes there next.
“It’s a pretty diverse committee and we’re actually getting along wonderfully well,” said Rev. Harlan Dalton of the Episcopal Church of St. Paul and St. James. “I think all of us have begun to see how all of our lives are connected 27 and that’s been wonderfully helpful.”
Dalton is on the committee taking submissions for a new monument honoring Italian heritage. He says they want to incorporate the existing base, and they’ve gotten about 40 entries so far.
“I think the word monument is too narrow. We’re really talking about public art and it could be pretty much anything.”
The committee is accepting submissions until October 12.