Jennifer Braceras addresses the impulse to tear down statues of Christopher Columbus in a must-read column in this morning's Wall Street Journal.

Jennifer quotes Columbus foe Melissa Mark-Viverito, speaker of New York’s City Council, who says there has been an "ongoing dialogue and debate in the Caribbean—particularly in Puerto Rico, where I’m from,” about Columbus  and the “oppression and everything he brought with him.”

Apparently, Ms. Mark-Viverito has forgotten that Puerto Rico celebrates Columbus not with one but with two holidays. The second Columbus holiday, Nov. 19, or Día del Descubrimiento (Discovery Day) is held on the day when Columbus, on his second voyage, arrived in Puerto Rico.

Jennifer goes on to explain the debt that Latinos owe to Columbus, an Italian who sailed under the Spanish crown:

Without Columbus and the Spanish colonization of the Western Hemisphere that followed, Latinos as a people would not exist.

Latin Americans have, thus, long celebrated the day that Columbus landed in the New World as Día de la Raza, or Day of the Race. The word “raza” isn’t meant in a Darwinian or bigoted sense. It refers to what the Mexican thinker José Vasconcelos called the “cosmic race” that incorporates people of all skin colors and physical characteristics in a culture that includes Spanish, native and African traditions. Día de la Raza is a universal celebration of a people and a world made possible because of the courage of Christopher Columbus. By honoring the explorer, Latin Americans honor their own place in the world and proclaim that they, as much as any other people, built the societies of the Western Hemisphere.

Recognizing the importance of Columbus Day to Latinos, President Reagan in 1988 instituted national Hispanic Heritage month, which begins Sept. 15 and culminates just after Columbus Day. Two weeks from now, on Columbus Day weekend, millions of Latinos and Italian-Americans will honor the explorer with parades on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, respectively.

Such commemorations do not absolve Columbus of his flaws or imply forgetting his missteps. The explorer, like most historical figures, was far from perfect. But much of the anti-Columbus rhetoric is based on old propaganda from the English and Dutch aimed at demonizing their Spanish-Catholic rivals. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan picked up these mischaracterizations as a way to delegitimize immigrants, particularly Catholics. Those who denigrate Columbus today in the name of “tolerance” only feed this bigoted narrative.

Read the whole piece.