Columbus statue

A statue of Cristopher Columbus on the promenade of Santa Margherita Ligure in his hometown of Genoa, Italy.

Christopher Columbus sailed into a hurricane when the Colorado state House of Representatives voted 37-26 Monday to sink Columbus Day as a state holiday.

A measure would replace Columbus Day with a new holiday — Colorado Day — on the first Monday of every August.

House Bill 1185 now heads to the Senate for consideration where it could be ushered along by the Democratic majority to Gov. Jared Polis' desk. Or it could die a political death in an unfriendly committee.

Getting rid of Columbus Day as a state holiday is now an annual ritual at the legislature. And the national tide seems to be shifting against the Italian explorer.

For example, the Montana legislature is considering legislation to replace Columbus Day with an Indigenous People's Day.

But here in Colorado — the first state to adopt Columbus Day — the issue always pits the state's Italian American community against an array of critics.

The only real surprise in Monday's vote was Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, voted with the majority to adopt Colorado Day instead. It was approved on final consideration without any discussion Monday.

Esgar said she voted for the bill because it would not change Columbus Day as a federal holiday. And she said it could resolve the annual confrontation between the drum-beating holiday critics and the Sons of Italy at the Columbus statue at the Mesa Junction in Pueblo.

"I've been assured that the Pueblo celebration will continue and I've also been assured that if this bill passes, organizers of the Columbus Day protest will no longer protest the celebration," she said. "It's always been my goal to resolve tough issues in our community and I'm confident we can move forward in a way that works for all parties."

The other two Pueblo-area House members, Reps. Bri Buentello and Don Valdez, voted against the legislation.

Buentello put out a statement saying, "I was proud to be a no vote on this bill and to stand in defense of our proud Italian culture and heritage here in Southern Colorado."

The bill's sponsor is Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Adams County. She ran a similar bill last year that proposed to make Election Day a state holiday instead of Columbus Day. It failed.

HB 1185 doesn't say much about the proposed Colorado Day. It just slips it into the summer line-up of holidays for state employees — Memorial Day, July Fourth and then Colorado Day. And it bumps Columbus Day off the list.

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