Christopher Columbus, seen as symbol of oppression, is ejected by San Jose city hall
Silicon Valley’s largest city became the latest to wade into debate over divisive historical figures after San Jose’s Italian-American mayor and council members voted to boot a statue of Christopher Columbus from City Hall.
The vote Tuesday night came after hours of boisterous debate as people argued over the explorer’s legacy, according to a KPIX 5 report. Council members suggested alternative public spots but could not agree, leaving the Italian-American community with six weeks to find a new home for the statue. Otherwise, it will go into storage.
Across America, communities are taking a fresh look at historic yet controversial figures such as Columbus, who is a point of pride for many Italian-Americans but also a symbol of oppression for others. Columbus, an Italian explorer, journeyed to the Americas.
— Indigenous (@AmericanIndian8) January 31, 2018
In January, San Francisco joined a growing list of cities that have replaced the Columbus Day holiday with Indigenous Peoples Day to honour Native American people decimated by the arrival of European immigrants.
San Jose’s marble statue, which was hand-carved in Italy, was a gift to the city from Italian-American groups in the 1950s. The statue has held a prominent spot at City Hall since then.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo was among those who supported the statue’s removal.
“Look, I’m Italian-American. I think my grandfather was a member of the group that donated it,” he said. “But I think that our understanding of history evolves as we learn more.”
Tony Zerbo, who is with the Italian-American Heritage Foundation, said the removal is a setback for his community. Italian immigrants have also suffered discrimination.
“Columbus is renown throughout the world, not just in Italy,” he said. “Italian Americans here, in San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area are very proud of that.”