Fifth Avenue was awash in green, white and red as thousands filled the streets to celebrate Columbus Day and Italian pride on Monday.
Revelers cheered as floats, marching bands, and singers and dancers from around the world passed by. For many in attendance — particularly Italian Americans who recently immigrated to the United States, like Francesca Acierno, 43, of Astoria — the parade was the closest they could get to home.
"I really like the Columbus Day parade because as an Italian I can show off my pride," said Acierno, who moved to New York 13 years ago and wore the Italian flag on her back Monday.
The celebration began at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with the annual mass spoken in both English and Italian. Cardinal Timothy Dolan emphasized Italian-Americans’ role in adding to the city’s melting pot. Bishop James Checchio, of the Diocese of Metuchen, said the mass’ homily and reminded the congregation that immigrants today are making similar contributions to their new communities.
"We’re asked to pave the way for others," he said.
Some paradegoers said they did not have any known Italian lineage but the sense of community brought them out. Karen Marx, 65, of Clearwater, Florida, attended the parade for the first time. When she and her family lived in New Jersey, she recalled always wanting to be part of the festivities.
"If you grow up in the area, you know someone who is Italian," she said. "This has a good feeling of community."
There were no major disruptions along the parade route Monday, however some participants carried signs decrying Columbus for his actions against indigenous Americans. Some of the protesters shouted in Spanish, calling Columbus a murderer and a conqueror.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who marched in the parade with other city and state elected officials, avoided the contentious displays. Cuomo said the celebration, like other ethnic parades, demonstrate New York’s strong diversity.
"Today we are all Italian Americans," he told reporters.
Cuomo’s mother, first lady Matilda Cuomo, and sister, Dr. Margaret Cuomo, the president of the Italian Language Foundation, were the parade’s honorees along with Donna Rapaccioli, the dean of the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University. Guy Chiarello, president of First Data Corporation, led the parade as its Grand Marshal.