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Sabato Rodia Italian Heritage Day

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Dear Angelino Italians and Italian Americans,

At the end of a long process of consultation, on Wednesday August 30, the City Council of Los Angeles will vote on a motion for the replacement of Columbus Day by a new paid holiday called Indigenous Peoples Day. The proponents of this new holiday have argued with transparency and conviction that the combined abolition of Columbus Day and its replacement by an Indigenous Peoples Day was the sole rightful gesture of “historical retribution” that would satisfy them. Some leaders of the Italian American community have argued with equal conviction and good faith that this holiday represents the cultural legacy of the “Columbian Exchange,” and the “contribution of all immigrants to the American Dream.”[1] We understand the emotional attachment that many Italian Americans feel to a celebration that has become part and parcel of their lives, quite aside from the multilayered and problematic aspects connected to the historical figure of Christopher Columbus and his legacy. We also recognize that the myth-making activity that has surrounded Columbus has been ongoing for centuries and has not been primarily produced by Italians or Italian Americans. Yet, the historical jury on Columbus and his legacy has been out for quite some time, and if ignorance is not a crime, closing ones’ eyes to unquestioned historical evidence of cruelty, and to the legacy of the real-life sufferings that the memorialization of Columbus has inflicted on Native Americans, comes dangerously close to denial.[2] We believe that the proponents of the replacement of Columbus Day by Indigenous Peoples Day are right about the legacy of Columbus and should not be opposed by members and leaders of the Italian American community. But, we also believe that, quite aside from the result of the voting, Angelino Italians have a unique opportunity to celebrate the very values of inter-racial solidarity, cultural creativity, and visionary humanism that they have mistakenly associated with Columbus, by turning to the universally known and cherished figure of Sabato (aka Sam) Rodia, whose Nuestro Pueblo (aka Watts Towers) stands as a monument to Italian immigrant genius and human solidarity.[4]

We ask Angelino Italians to sign this petition to invite leaders of the local Italian American community to work towards the cultural institutionalization of a "Sabato Rodia Italian Heritage Day" as a day of celebration of Italian immigrants' contribution to this nation.[5]

 

Luisa Del Giudice (PhD, Independent Scholar)

Claudio Fogu (PhD, Associate Professor of Italian, UCSB)

Thomas Harrison (PhD, Professor and Chair of Italian, UCLA)

Cav. Geoffrey Symcox (PhD, Emeritus Professor of History, UCLA)

Co-sponsors “Sabato Rodia Italian Heritage Day” 

rodiaday@gmail.com

[1] http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-indigenous-peoples-holiday-20170615-story.html

[2] Please see our blog where we discuss the historical legacy of Columbus 'the Man, and Columbus 'the Day' (https://replacecolumbusday.wordpress.com/). For a general introduction to the myth-making activities connected with the historical image of Columbus, see James W. Loewen's book, Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus: What Your History Books Got Wrong (The New Press, 2014); for a deeper look into the evidence emerged in the last two decades of scholarship, see Geoffrey Symcox and Brian Sullivan, Christopher Columbus and the Enterprise of the Indies. A Brief History with Documents (McMillan, 2005); for direct access to newly published documents and narratives regarding Columbus in the New World see the thirteen volumes of the Repertorium Colombianum published between 1995 and 2004 by the UCLA Medieval and Renaissance Studies Center (http://cmrs.ucla.edu/publications/books/). For a scientific discussion of trauma in Indigenous populations read M. Alzman and M. J. Halloran, "Culture, Meaning, Self-Estime and the Reconstruction of Cultural World-View," in J. Greenberg, S. L. Koole and T. Pyszczynsky eds., Handbook of Experimental Existential Psychology (Gilford Press, 2004), 231-246.

[4] The Watts Towers were recently proposed for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

[5] We are not advocating for a city-mandated holiday, but for a city-recognized "Italian heritage" day. We would suggest October 10 as the most appropriate date, since on that date (October 10, 1959) the historic “stress test” proved that the Watts Towers were sound, and hence they were saved from demolition. This date would also be close to the traditional date in which Columbus Day has been celebrated, thereby allowing a smooth transition from the old to the new celebration.  



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