Brooklynites took to the streets of Bensonhurst on Oct. 8 for the borough’s annual Columbus Day parade, where local leaders celebrated noteworthy Italian-Americans for their extraordinary contributions to New York City.
The parade, now in its 40th year, was founded by the Federation of Italian-American Organizations. The group, also known as FIAO, aims “to preserve the Italian American heritage and culture,” according to its mission.
This year’s celebration kicked off with a mass at St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church. From there, the march stepped off at 1 p.m., drawing thousands to 18th Avenue — the Brooklyn thoroughfare co-named Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard.
“The Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade really continues to get great success, particularly in our diverse society,” said FIAO President Jack Spatola. “Cultural heritage is truly — and should be — treasured because, through it, we keep a pride and integrity as a community of people.”
The annual Kings County Columbus Day celebration, Spatola said, is a “manifestation of cultural heritage.”
“What’s important is the wealth of knowledge and the abilities and skills that are transmitted not only from one generation to the next but also among cultures, from one culture to another,” he said, “so the importance of the parade [transcends] the thousands of families [who attend.] It’s the groups, the institutions, the bands and the folks that participate that make the event incredible.”
And this year, there were thousands of spectators from all different backgrounds, according to Spatola.
“Not only was it a display of pride, but also the rich and beautiful diversity that exists in southern Brooklyn — really in Brooklyn and beyond,” he said.
Christopher Columbus has become a hotly-debated topic in recent years as more and more attention is drawn to Columbus’ violent history after arriving in North America in 1492. Many have taken to renaming the day “Indigenous People’s Day” to honor the victims of Columbus’ genocide, as well as the rich history of native people and their contributions to society.
Nevertheless, 18th Avenue was abuzz Saturday as Brooklynites flew Italian and American flags in celebration of Columbus Day, which has become a de facto celebration for the Italian-American community.
The parade ended at FIAO’s Il Centro Italian-American Cultural Center, New York’s first Italian-American multicultural community center.
Additional reporting by Jessica Parks and Aidan Graham