Colorado lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday to replace Columbus Day with a new state holiday honoring Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini on the first Monday in October.
Cabrini Day is believed to be the first paid state holiday to recognize a woman anywhere in the country, the Denver Post reported. It now needs the governor’s signature to become law, and he is not expected to oppose it.
Honoring Cabrini, an Italian American and patron saint of immigrants, was a compromise with Italian Americans, who take pride in the Italian explorer, lead bill sponsor Adrienne Benavidez said.
“Although Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) is recognized as a voyager who arrived in what is now known as the Caribbean Sea, he never traveled to or entered the territory that became the United States,” the text of the bill states. “He had no knowledge or contact with the area now known as the state of Colorado, providing no rationale for a Colorado state holiday in his name. In 1492, he was welcomed by the indigenous Taino people to their homeland on the island of Quiqueya, which Columbus renamed Hispaniola. Fifty years later, the Taino people had been nearly exterminated by Columbus and his successors.”
Benavidez has been trying for years to abolish Columbus Day and calls it “a festering sore.”
“The continuation of a racist holiday hurts people, and this says that we as a state no longer want to be party to that,” she said.
Many House and Senate Republicans said the bill was a rewrite of history and all of them opposed the bill.
Benavidez denied that was the case.
“It’s not a rewrite of history at all,” she said. “It’s that we recognize that Columbus should not be revered.”
She added that Cabrini was a “great humanitarian,” and she was “elated” that the bill passed.
Cabrini came to Colorado in 1902 and opened the Queen of Heaven Orphanage for girls in north Denver a few years later. In 1909, she was naturalized as a U.S. citizen and she negotiated the purchase of a rural property to be used as a summer camp for girls at the orphanage.
The property’s land on the eastern slope of Lookout Mountain had no reliable source of water, so all of the water needed had to be brought up to the camp from a stream at the bottom of Mt. Vernon Canyon.
During her last visit to Colorado in 1912, she directed the girls to dig under a rock where they found a spring of fresh water that continues to provide water to the property.
“The land upon which Cabrini established her orphanage and camp is the traditional territory and homeland to the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Ute indigenous nations,” the bill’s text read. “Those indigenous peoples, and all indigenous peoples, have a special, sacred relationship with water, similar to that of Cabrini.”
Throughout the United States and South and Central America, Cabrini founded 67 institutions, including schools, hospitals and orphanages, in her lifetime.
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