HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Holyoke is the latest community in western Massachusetts to drop Christopher Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day. Many are celebrating the change, but not all city councilors were on board.
“I was dancing, I was crying, I called everyone who had worked on this to say thank you,” said Holyoke activist Elizabeth Caretti Ramirez.
Holyoke activists rejoiced this week after the city council voted 10-3 to replace Christopher Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.
“Because I am Italian-American and I’m very proud of my heritage, but I do not want to be represented by someone who is a genocidal murder against my neighbors,” Caretti Ramirez added.
Holyoke Ward 4 City Councilor Libby Hernandez, who was present during the vote, told Western Mass News this a huge milestone for the local Puerto Rican population.
“It instills value into indigenous people, this area, this state and Holyoke, which is 50 percent Latinos from Tainos,” Hernandez noted.
She said children will finally have the chance to learn the truth about history.
“…And they don't have to look up to a person that committed such atrocities against the people they come from,” Hernandez explained.
However, not everyone was on-board. Holyoke Ward 3 City Councilor David Bartley was one of the three who voted against the change.
“It's not to support Christopher Columbus, but it's…if I thought for half a second, I thought this resolution would do anything to move the city of Holyoke forward in any kind of meaningful way, I would have voted for it,” Bartley said.
Meantime, local activists predict the state will follow suit with this change and is calling on surrounding communities to take action before it's too late.
“Any town that is not on the books before the state does this, they are also going to go in the history books of being on the wrong side of this issue,” Caretti Ramirez said.
In October of last year, Holyoke Public Schools celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time. Hernandez said they city is planning to hold more festivities this year.