Columbus statue won’t return to downtown San Antonio park

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – The San Antonio City Council has approved the permanent removal of the Christopher Columbus statue from the northwestern edge of San Antonio, where a community of Italian immigrants once flourished.

The statue was removed from Columbus Park for cleaning last month after someone splashed red paint on it. Instead of being reinstalled, it will be returned to the Christopher Columbus Italian Society of San Antonio, which donated the statue to the city in 1957.

The council also agreed Thursday to change the name of Columbus Park to Piazza Italia. Piazza is the Italian word for ‘public square.’

During a citizens-to-be heard segment, Michael Knuffke accused city council of erasing history by removing statues that have been in San Antonio for decades.

“There are other things out there that may be offensive to somebody, but we cannot rule by feelings,” said Knuffke.

Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran argued,”It’s not about erasing history. It’s about telling the truth about history.”

Councilwoman Ana Sandoval agreed with Viagran.

“In terms of erasing history, there’s been a lot of history that’s been erased and that we haven’t recognized, and that’s why we do have Indigenous (Peoples’) Day in October now,” said Sandoval.

While the Italian explorer of the 1400s is hailed as a hero to some, others see him as a symbol of oppression and hate who’s responsible for the slaughter of Native Americans. After  the recent vandalism and destruction of Confederate memorials and Columbus statues in other parts of the country during protests following the death of George Floyd, Councilman Roberto Trevino worked with the Italian Society on a plan for the safe removal of the Columbus statue in San Antonio.

“It should not have taken a pandemic and much-needed period of self-reflection as a country for us to grasp the need to empower and celebrate the diversity of heritage that make up this beautiful city,” Treviño said.

In addition to the permanent removal of the statue and renaming the park, Trevino told the council that there’s a move to rename Columbus Street.

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