by Noel Sims, New Haven Independent, Oct. 13, 2022
“Our people live without borders,” John Lugo said in Spanish to a small crowd gathered on the corner of Church and Chapel to celebrate both migrants and indigenous people who call this land home.
That was the scene Wednesday afternoon during an Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration hosted by the local immigrant rights advocacy group Unidad Latina en Acción.
As Lugo spoke, smoke from sage burning at an altar set up in front of the Bennett Memorial Fountain wafted through the air. Among the group listening intently to his words were women in traditional Mexican and Guatemalan garb, young children, and a few curious passersby walking across the Green. Lugo, who helms ULA, welcomed family, friends and neighbors to join in a celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The rally wasn’t the only celebration of native people and culture that was held on the Green Wednesday. On the Elm Street side, a second group led by longtime local activist and Indigenous Peoples’ Day event organizer Norm Clement gathered for a separate ceremony. (City government, meanwhile, now recognizes the second Monday of October not as Columbus Day or as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but instead as Italian Heritage Day.)
According to a flyer passed out by organizers, the ULA event had an additional purpose: to criticize a lack of action by Democrats and other elected officials to make pathways for migrants to stay in the United States.
Oct. 12 has long been recognized and celebrated in this country as the date that the Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus first arrived in the Americas. On Wednesday, Lugo recognized the date as an anniversary of something much different than a first encounter between two cultures. He described it instead as the beginning of violence and genocide of Indigenous people on this continent. He said today’s immigration policies are a continuation of that violence.