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Norwich – The descendants of the second, third and fourth generations of Italian immigrants who gathered on Saturday at Chelsea Parade for the re-dedication of the Italian heritage monument were not talking about the journey of Christopher Columbus, nor of the man himself – even

They remembered the ancestors who arrived by boat from the 1890s, often not knowing English, and settled in a town close enough to the sea to remind them of the Italian villages or towns they have left behind The Italians had migrated to Norwich from Bologna, north, Sicily, south, and many places in between

Italian-Americans said their parents or grandparents learned English, often from their children who had studied it in school, and ultimately only spoke Italian when they wanted to. not let the children know what they were talking about

Many worked as laborers and masons, while others were skilled in art, education, science, medicine and agriculture

Leaders of the city’s Italian heritage groups acted swiftly last summer as Columbus statues were degraded or knocked down in other parts of the state and country by protesters who associate him to slavery and genocide

The name and image of Columbus were removed from the statue, which was erected with private funds in 1992 to mark the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage

The newly unveiled engraving, which had been covered with a tarpaulin and then an Italian flag, depicts the Italian and American flags and a dedication to Italian immigrants who settled in Norwich The project costs between $ 7,000 and $ 9,000 and is funded by private donations

It had never really been about Columbus, said most of the 60 or so people gathered on the green. It is about family, as the engraving indicates that says “Onorate i vostri gentori” or “Remember your parents”

“Today we dedicate the monument again to our loved ones,” said Art Montorsi, president of the Men’s Italian American Club. “It was never intended to honor an explorer, politician or scientist”

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The original 400 names of Italian immigrants, which their ancestors paid $ 300 to have included on the statue in 1992, remain and were read aloud on Saturday The approximately sixty people gathered on the green listened to music patriotic of both countries and waited to hear the name and city of origin of their ancestors

Three generations of the Jacaruso family went green to celebrate the new consecration Frank Jacaruso, president of the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee, had led the renovation and served as master of ceremonies His mother’s name, Adeline Jacaruso, is on the monument Jacaruso’s two children, Jon and Maria, attended with their children

“We explained to them on the way down that it was about honoring the sacrifices people make to improve our lives,” said Jon Jacaruso

Paul Chinigo, a lawyer, spoke of growing up in a three-story building occupied by his parents, grandparents and other family members, of being the first in his family to frequent the university

Nancy DiPietro talked about the block of houses on Pond Street her parents were able to buy for their five daughters, visiting her aunts every Sunday after church, and competing to see who could make the best sauce red and meatballs

They said that their ancestors were sometimes treated badly, were denied employment opportunities and called a variety of derogatory names, but were also welcomed by others and eventually learned the language and became part of of the city’s fabric

The unveiling of the reconfigured statue has been delayed because an Italian company that supplied the marble was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic

Monsignor Anthony Rosaforte of St Patrick’s Cathedral blessed the statue with holy water after thanking the Italian ancestors who came to Norwich for a better life

“You gave us the opportunity to blend in with the US, but also to keep our joy in our heritage,” said Rosaforte “We are proud to be Americans We are proud of our Italian ancestry God bless the ‘Italy God bless America And God bless each of you “

A few critics of Columbus’ removal from status watched the unveiling, then spoke as the rally dispersed

Lori Hopkins Cavanagh, who said her mother emigrated from Senigallia, said Columbus was a hero and his image had been removed from the statue out of fear that members of the Black Lives Matter movement would destroy her

“I don’t see this as a positive,” said Getch Dires, who said he came to the US from Ethiopia 17 years ago and considers himself a historian. “The real story is suppressed and replaced by a revised story “

But for many, the move was seen as a gesture of unity in a city inhabited by people from diverse backgrounds

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Richard Longo, whose wife Diane stood nearby, nodding. “He brings people together and shows the unity between all races”

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