Boca Italian lodge joins national push to save Columbus Day

Columbus Day was never just about the explorer. Italian-Americans are taking defacing his statues and disparaging his reputation as a personal affront on their culture and history in the U.S.

So Boca’s Sons & Daughters of Italy Lodge is joining the national push to, “separate fact from fiction,” said Edmondo Catania, past president, Sgt. Frederick M. Bonanno Lodge #2549 and a regional trustee. He distributes this candid video on who Columbus was, what he did and didn’t do.

Columbus Day was declared a federal holiday in 1937. But celebration had already eroded before the recent incidents. South Dakota renamed Oct. 12 Indigenous People’s Day in 1990. Eight states and 130 cities followed. But that hadn’t filtered down to their membership, said Cantania and J. Nick Cantore, former Boca lodge president, now vice president of the group’s Grand Lodge of Florida.

But disparaging Columbus’ reputation and tearing down his statues got everyone’s attention. Now the Boca lodge has joined five of the largest Italian-American groups in the country that just formed the National Columbus Education Foundation. “What they’re trying to do is dispel myths and misrepresentation,” Cantore said.

In Florida two men, from Coral Springs and the upper Keys are “spearheading the effort,” Cantore said. “We also have a national social justice commission to present a respectable and accurate history of Italian- Americans in America.”

The Boca lodge had already lined up speakers for Italian clubs in the gated communities. Then the pandemic hit. So the plan now is to post the new efforts on the lodge web site and Facebook page.

“We’re using the Zoom platform and as we get more comfortable with it, we’ll have speakers. The momentum is there is on the national level,” Cantore said.

The call to action is awareness. “And as this new organization distributes more information on a grassroots level, we have to get before our politicians,” he added.

Catania would like to see the city resume an Italian Festival that drew 5,000 people at the third annual in 2018 and was dropped without explanation, Catania said. “The festival was brought together was by three organizations, so it wasn’t just one group trying to promote Italian culture,” he added.

Both men see themselves as patriots and the continuing assaults as an insult to their heritage. “This new organization is trying to convey the legacy of Christopher Columbus so they won’t be trying to discredit him and do away with the holiday,” Cantore said.

“People forget there are a lot of Italians who vote,” Catania added.

By Marci Shatzman


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