Oct 8, 2012 5:28 PM by Lacey Steele

Tempers flare at Columbus Day rally in Pueblo

In Pueblo, Columbus Day brings out both pride and anger.

It's happened for several years.

A verbal battle takes over on Abriendo Avenue between those of Italian descent and people of Native American heritage.

We spoke with both sides.

It's a celebration of America and the Italian heritage of Christopher Columbus.

People recited the Pledge of Allegiance and spoke about what Columbus means to them.

Hundreds of Italian descent gathered around his statue in its first year on the National Register of Historic Places.

"Our heritage and our culture, and that's what it's all about," said Vivian Sagona, who is of Italian descent. "I've been doing this since I was a young girl."

But about five minutes in...

"No more Columbus Day!" shouted a group near the statue.

Music from those honoring Columbus competed with drums and chants from people of Native American heritage who want Columbus Day abolished.

Columbus is considered a hero to many.

"There were people here before him, but he did pave the way for the rest of Europe and all of the other countries to come to this country," said Mary Jane Cortese, who is of Italian descent.

But Native Americans disagree.

"A celebration that demeans indigenous people," said Rudy Valles, who is of Native American descent. "Still today in America, we don't have an acknowledgement for American Indians, the first Americans in this country."

They say he was a murderer and rapist.

"Columbus was not a hero," said Valles. "He never even got to America... He never even acknowledged that he was in America. Until the day he died, he thought he was in India."

Tempers flared during the rally.

"It upsets me very much that I have to listen to someone pounding on a drum and disrespecting me and my people," said one of the speakers to the group of those in favor of Columbus Day.

But not everyone worried about it.

"I guess they have a right to do what they do, but we have a right to do what we do, too," said Sagona.

Those rights played out for over an hour on Abriendo.

People of Italian descent say Columbus was a brave man who made it possible for America to transform into what it is today.

Native Americans say their protest is not a sign of hatred for Italians, it's just against Columbus and the holiday.



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