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Members of the City Council Governance Committee voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to move the issue of removing a statue of Christopher Columbus to the full Council.
Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) filed a request on June 17 asking the Council to consider renaming Columbus Park, where the statue currently resides, as well as removing the statue.
“The best way to understand is to listen, and in listening to both our Indigenous and Italian citizens, I’ve heard that there is an opportunity for better representation of the local contributions from our Italian community,” Treviño said. “It should be honored with symbols that reflect the heritage and influence they’ve had. However, those symbols of pride for some should not be painful reminders for others.”
Christopher Columbus’ role in history is tied with colonization and violence against Indigenous peoples. The Columbus statue recently returned to the public spotlight amid protests against police brutality and racism in San Antonio and around the country.
The Christopher Columbus Italian Society originally donated the statue to the City in 1957 and it is the centerpiece of the 2-acre Columbus Park at 500 Columbus St. The society’s president wrote a letter to City Manager Erik Walsh requesting the Columbus statue be given back to the society, as well as supporting Treviño’s suggestion to rename the park to Piazza Italia.
“We consider the name change to be a thoughtful representation of the Italian community in San Antonio,” Italian Society president Sam Greco wrote.
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Last Thursday, residents discovered the Columbus statue vandalized with red paint. Later in the day last Thursday, Black Lives Matter activists and Indigenous rights leaders were in Council chambers calling for the immediate removal of the statue. Assistant City Manager Lori Houston said the statue would be temporarily removed for restoration and repairs before the full City Council votes on whether to remove and return it to the Italian Society. The City is expected to remove the statue as early as Wednesday.
Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) praised Treviño for bringing the issue forward.
“I think this is a great resolution that is respectful of history, but it’s also respectful of the current climate,” she said. “What we think is worthy of putting on a pedestal in one century may change over time as more knowledge comes forward and as our values evolve as human beings.”
City Council is adjourned for July, but will discuss removing the Columbus statue when they resume meetings in August.