I attended the Sept. 18 City Council meeting that was attempting to eradicate Columbus Day as a city holiday, a proposal sponsored by Councilor Pious Ali.

It is true that Native Americans endured many atrocities in the past, and these actions should be rectified, but not at the expense of celebrating our Italian ancestors, who also faced discrimination for centuries.

We Italian-Americans are very proud of our heritage. Portland has a large population of Italians, some of them our forefathers, who labored on the waterfront and laid the cobblestones along the streets of the Old Port. They did whatever they could to find work to put food on the table for their families. They worked for everything and had nothing handed to them.

Once our grandparents settled in Portland, Italian became their second language. They learned English and demanded that their children speak English. They didn’t try to change American culture; they wanted to be part of it.

As successive generations of Italians, we benefit from our immigrant ancestors’ long and arduous labor. Today, we are the doctors, lawyers, teachers, business people, entertainers, artists, politicians, police officers, firefighters, clergy and proud laborers. We have contributed much to the world and our beloved city.

This attempt to dishonor Columbus is a slap to the face of all Italians, who have worked tirelessly to improve the Portland community.

There is a growing trend to be politically correct, but I feel that this attempt to change and erase history is repugnant. These atrocities happened centuries ago. We can learn from past mistakes and make sure these actions will never occur again.

Columbus Day is not a celebration of one man but a celebration of Italian-Americans and their contributions to the world. I would fully sponsor an Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but let’s establish it on one of the other 365 days in the year.

Marianne Reali

South Portland

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