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San Antonio City Council will vote next month on whether to rename Columbus Park after an ad hoc committee on Thursday voted unanimously in favor of changing the name to Piazza Italia Park.
The four-member committee heard written and audio comments from 58 residents during a public hearing held via teleconference Thursday. Thirty-six (62 percent) were in favor of the name change, and 22 were opposed. Most submitted written comments online ahead of the meeting and others submitted voicemails.
A statue of Christopher Columbus was removed from the park on July 1 after it was vandalized amid local and national calls to take down symbols of the Confederacy and historic racism and oppression as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Several members of the Christopher Columbus Italian Society, which donated the sculpture to the City in 1957 and recently requested that it be removed and the park be renamed, signaled their support Thursday. Paolo Cristadoro, a spokesman for the society, serves on the ad hoc committee.
“It’s an important park because of its unique cultural history,” said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who formalized the society’s request in June.
The park is located in the former heart of San Antonio’s Italian immigrant neighborhood before highway construction and other development prompted its demolition
it in the 1950s. The Italian society was founded in May 1890 and built the Italian Catholic Church, San Francesco di Paola, in 1927. The church and Christopher Columbus Italian Hall are still located next to the park.
The name change honors the broader Italian contribution to San Antonio’s culture, Treviño said, and “helps embrace the diverse cultures in our city, because that’s who we are here in San Antonio.”
Many of those in opposition said renaming the park would “erase history” that society should learn from and criticized the City for participating in “cancel culture.”
“This is our history,” said one commenter in an email. “I admit [Christopher Columbus] was not a saint, but was anyone?”
Despite a history of being celebrated in the U.S., Columbus’s legacy is marred by the devastation his expeditions wreaked on indigenous populations in the Americas.
In late June, protesters – many associated with Black Lives Matter and indigenous groups – demanded the removal of the monument and clashed with police and armed militiamen.
City Council’s vote on the name change to Piazza Italia, which means Italy Square, is scheduled for Aug. 13.