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Italian-Americans look to refocus annual New Haven heritage parade away from Christopher Columbus

New Haven Columbus Statue Protest
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
NEW HAVEN, CT - June 24, 2020: Workers lower the Christopher Columbus statue that was in New Haven’s Wooster Square onto a city public works truck to be removed and placed in the Knights of Columbus museum downtown. The event brought out dozens pro-statue supporters from the Greater New Haven area and later, a large crowd of anti-statue protesters from the city.

Italian-Americans in the greater New Haven region have found new ways to celebrate their heritage after the Columbus Day parade was canceled again this year due to the pandemic. The goal for the annual parade’s replacement is to focus more on Italian-American immigrants’ heritage than the controversial Italian explorer.

“We had to scale back, but we’re praying to revive the parade in 2022,” said Laura Florio Luzzi, chairwoman of the Greater New Haven Italian American Heritage Committee. The group plans similar festivities for six Connecticut cities and towns.

Instead, the committee held a concert last week featuring Italian-American songs, food vendors and exhibits on the town green in North Haven.

Luzzi said the parade will likely be named for Italian-American heritage next year. She wants the committee to try to keep the traditions alive without the controversy.

“If the negativity is Christopher Columbus, then we’re just going to have to pull him out of the equation,” she said.

The committee faced an added challenge with their celebrations after the Christopher Columbus statue was removed from New Haven’s Wooster Square Park in June 2020. The removal of the statue followed similar plans across the country in response to the explorer’s cruelty to Indigenous people.

Traditionally, the parade would pass the statue and around 30 wreaths from all the local Italian-American organizations would be laid beneath. A ceremony was still held at the pedestal on Saturday.

“It’s symbolic for us, but only one wreath,” Luzzi said.

Nick Casella, co-chair of the Italian Heritage Concert, said he disagrees with removing Columbus’ name.

“While I understand the argument that many have made to rename this holiday, I do not condone it,” he said. “We should honor Indigenous people and all they represent and lost, but we don’t have to erase the greatest achievements of the Age of Discovery.”

The parade will rotate to the town of East Haven next year in 2022.

“We hope it is a parade for all, because we are an all inclusive organization,” Luzzi said.

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