Annual Columbus Day parade embraces different heritages

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It's traditionally a celebration of Italian heritage, but the 28th Pittsburgh Columbus Day parade held in the city's Bloomfield neighborhood on Saturday included groups from Scotland, the Philippines, and Lithuania, as well as a large contingent from the Latin American Cultural Union.

"We've expanded to include other cultural groups," said parade chairman Guy Costa. "Every year we get a little bigger and have more diversity."

In 2005, the Columbus Day parade had to be canceled after donated funds went missing. A state audit found more than $24,000 had been misappropriated by a former parade official.

But Mr. Costa, who has served as chairman for 16 of the parade's 28 years, said it has rebounded since, and participation has been on the rise every year. "We're looking at about 10,000 people this year," he said.

Among the groups in this year's parade was the Latin American Cultural Union, marching (and singing and dancing) for its second year.

The connection between Columbus' arrival to the Americas and his behavior toward the indigenous people of the region has been a source of controversy. Indeed, a small protest group calling themselves "Pittsburghers for Italian Pride without Genocide" walked in the opposite direction of the rest of the parade marchers, dressed in black and carrying a sign that read "To honor Columbus is to honor genocide."

But Jesabel Rivera, 26, of Monroeville, president of the Latin American Cultural Union, said the fact her group was invited to participate in the parade for a second year was a positive sign. She and her group of a few dozen performers received a warm reception along the parade route, Ms. Rivera said.

"It went great," she said afterward, "better than last year, even."

Participant injured

The only incident reported during the parade was a collision between a parade participant and a bicyclist. Giovanni Cimino, 56, of Green Tree was hit as he was marching in the parade along Liberty Avenue with other men, women and children -- including his wife and two teenage children.

Mr. Cimino had a cut on his head and was taken to UPMC Presbyterian, where he was treated Saturday afternoon, police said. It was not clear whether charges would be filed against the bicyclist, who also suffered a head injury.

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Kim Lyons: or 412-263-1241 First Published October 12, 2013 8:00 PM


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