The sound of music and crowds cheering echoed up Fifth Avenue as the 77th Columbus Day Parade weaved through Midtown to the Upper East Side Monday.
The parade was the largest celebration on Fifth Avenue to happen since the coronavirus hit the city in 2020, canceling last year’s Columbus Day Parade and so many other cultural celebrations. Thousands of spectators, some coming from as far away as Italy, lined the streets for the event.
“It’s amazing. It’s great to see how the countries are tied up, even now, like, centuries later,” said Leonardo Patacconi, an Italian tourist.
Pasquale Policarpo is from Italy, too, now by way of Staten Island. He said he’s ecstatic to celebrate his heritage at the parade once again.
“I like to see Columbus celebrated all the time. Do not forget, he’s the one who discovered here. He spent 40 days on the ship,” said Policarpo, a Westerleigh resident.
But in recent years Christopher Columbus’ legacy has come under increased criticism because of atrocities he and his crew committed against Indigenous people.
City public schools now recognize the holiday as Italian American Heritage/Indigenous Peoples' Day, a compromise officials came up with in response to the backlash after education officials renamed the Columbus Day holiday on the school calendar and simply called it Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Parade goers we spoke with said changing the name changes their history.
“My family immigrated from Sicily, we’re very well respected,” said Carmela Pistone, a parade goer. “Very hardworking people. I think everyone should be respected and appreciated. Everyone should be grateful for all of the experiences that brought us together today.”
Parade organizers say they support Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but that it’s important to continue celebrating the contributions of Italian Americans, on Columbus Day.
“It is critically important to continue to celebrate all groups. The United Nations recognize this by naming August 9 Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and what a great day it would be to celebrate Indigenous people and have a parade as large as this one up Fifth Avenue,” said Marian Pardo, the president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation.
Regardless of the controversy over the holiday’s name, parade goers said they were excited to see a cultural parade on Fifth Avenue once again.