DENVER, Colo. (KRDO) -- Last Wednesday, the Colorado House of Representatives passed a bill that would remove the state's recognition of Columbus Day.
The bill, HB20-1031, was approved 37-26 in the House and is now in the Colorado Senate.
Christopher Columbus was an Italian voyager who explored the Americas and Caribbean Islands on behalf of Spain during the 15th and 16th centuries. Supporters of the bill says Columbus committed numerous atrocities against the native tribes in the areas he visited.
Previous bills had been proposed to the Colorado State Legislature, but have failed to make it to the Governor's desk.
HB20-1031 is different from past attempts to repeal Columbus Day in Colorado because it would replace the controversial holiday with a new one. The new holiday would recognize Italian humanitarian and former Colorado resident Frances Xavier Cabrini.
In 1904, Cabrini established Denver's Queen of Heaven Orphanage for girls.
In 1910, she founded a summer camp for the orphanage’s residents in
Golden, Colorado. Currently, a shrine stands in her honor at the original
location of the summer camp in Golden. The shrine includes the “Stone
House," listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Cabrini Day would recognize its namesake's dedication to humanitarian values and lifelong service, especially to the Italian-American community.
If the Senate and Gov. Jared Polis approve the bill, Cabrini Day would be the first Colorado state holiday named after a woman.
Cabrini Day would take place on the first Monday in October. It would be a paid holiday for state employees and the bill would remove state sanction of Columbus Day, which occurs one week later than the proposed date.
At least seven states and more than 125 cities have repealed and replaced Columbus Day.
It’s an especially controversial topic in Colorado — the first state to recognize Columbus Day as a state holiday in 1907, according to the Denver Post.
Many in Pueblo consider the city to be the birthplace of Columbus. Here is where dissension on the issue has been fierce, and this bill doesn't appear to be changing that.
“Mother Cabrini in place of Columbus? That's absolutely a good compromise,” said Rita Martinez, a Columbus Day protest organizer in Pueblo since 1992. "We don't think it's a bad replacement at all, and I think the Italian community should be really excited about all this and celebrate this."
However, the Son's of Italy believe this bill is just another veiled attempt
to attack people of Italian heritage and their holiday.
"Frances Cabrini is of course well respected in the Italian community but this is a slippery slope," said Jerry Carleo, with Pueblo's Son's of Italy chapter. "Once you go down that slope there are no edges that will protect anybody else. So what's the next step? Someone doesn't like thanksgiving? Oh well we need to get rid of thanksgiving. Who makes that determination?"
Carleo believes HB20-1031 is a step in the wrong direction for the Colorado State Legislature.