The Colorado State Legislature passed a bill last week that would repeal Columbus Day celebrations and replace the holiday with the newly created Cabrini Day.
The bill honors Frances Xavier Cabrini, who is described in the law’s text as “a humanitarian champion of immigrants and children in the United States.”
The state legislature gave final passage to the bill on March 10. It is now headed to Governor Jared Polis, who supports the bill and will sign it, a spokesman told the Denver Post.
This would make Colorado the first state to declare a state-funded holiday in memory of a woman.
Introduced and sponsored by Reps. Adrienne Benavidez (D) and Kyle Mullica (D), along with Sens. Angela Williams (D) and Chris Hansen (D), the bill argued that state-sanctioned holidays “ are intended to honor prominent figures in United States history and acknowledge other civic events and celebrations in Colorado.”
Legislators allow that while Christopher Columbus was known as a voyager who travelled what is now known as the Caribbean Sea, he never had contact with the state of Colorado and did not enter the territory that became the United States. As a result, the new law states that there is “no rationale” for Colorado to celebrate his memory.
Moreover, it is well established that European settlers and colonizers had profoundly devastating effects on the native population. The bill notes that in 1492, Columbus was welcomed by the indigenous Taíno people on the Caribbean island of Quiqueya, which Columbus renamed Hispaniola in honor of his patrons, the King and Queen of Spain. Fifty years later, the Taíno had been nearly killed off by Columbus and his successors, who enslaved and massacred the native tribe. The Taíno had died from enslavement, massacre and disease.
Today, this archipelago is composed of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Alternatively, Cabrini arrived in Colorado in 1902 and established multiple orphanages, schools and hospitals across the U.S., as well as Central and South America, according to the bill. Among her work, she established the Queen of Heaven Orphanage for girls in north Denver.
“Recognizing the first Monday in October as Frances Xavier Cabrini Day in recognition of Cabrini's contributions to the state of Colorado creates an opportunity to promote an appreciation, tolerance, and understanding of the different cultures that make up our state,” the bill explains.
Speaking with CNN, Sen. Hansen describes Cabrini as “a local Colorado hero,” and believes that as a country, “we need holidays to recognize the contributions of women across history.”
The movement to permanently replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day is also gaining traction. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the legislation “Indigenous Peoples’ Day Emergency Declaration Act of 2019” last October to temporarily replace it with Columbus Day while awaiting congressional approval, according to ABC news.
Reports say that eight states and 130 cities have legally changed the holiday to focus on the historical and cultural contributions of Native Americans.