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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Parks Department Advances Columbus Park Name Change Proposal to San Antonio Council

Posted By on Thu, Jul 16, 2020 at 8:27 PM

click to enlarge The Christopher Columbus Italian Society donated the statue in downtown's Columbus Park in 1957. - COURTESY PHOTO / CITY OF SAN ANTONIO
  • Courtesy Photo / City of San Antonio
  • The Christopher Columbus Italian Society donated the statue in downtown's Columbus Park in 1957.
The Parks and Recreation Department voted unanimously Thursday to send a proposal to rename Columbus Park to city council, taking another step to disassociate the city with the explorer who perpetrated genocide against indigenous peoples.

The department took written, recorded and live comments during a virtual public hearing Thursday evening on renaming the public space Piazza Italia Park.

The majority of the comments favored renaming the park. While a few decried the change as "cancel culture" and "reverse racism," a number of San Antonians of Italian descent expressed strong support.

Of the 58 comments received, 36 were in favor of renaming the park. At the conclusion of the meeting, officials voted to advance the proposal.

The park, located in a historically Italian neighborhood, long featured a statue of Columbus as its focal point. Following the murder of George Floyd at the end of May, statues of the explorer became focal points for protests in cities across the country as symbols of oppression and white supremacy.

In San Antonio, indigenous activists had advocated for removal of the Columbus statue for years without success.

In June, District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño, with the support of the Christopher Columbus Italian Society, indigenous activists and other council members, called for the renaming of the park and the removal of the statue.

The statue, which the Italian Society donated to the city in 1957, was defaced with red paint before it ultimately taken down by workers and returned to the society on July 1.

Treviño and a number of commenters highlighted the immigrant heritage of the area around the park, which comprised a thriving Italian neighborhood during the early 20th century and is still home to the Church of San Francesco di Paola.

During the hearing, the councilman said the city's handling of the statue's removal and name change could serve as a model for the rest of the country.

"This is a great story about how many different sides came together," Treviño said.

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