SAN JOSE, Calif. (Jesse Gary/KTVU) - The San Jose City Council worked long into the night, debating a long-standing divisive issue – the Christopher Columbus statue at City Hall. The conclusion they came to on Tuesday night only delays things for another six weeks. They have that amount of time to figure out where to move it, possibly somewhere in Little Italy, or it will go in storage.
For years, groups supporting indigenous people have called for the statues removal from the lobby of City Hall. Its been 50 years since the Christopher Columbus statue was given to San Jose.
But a one-time symbol of cultural pride for some, it is now lightning rod between the old and new worlds.
In council chambers Tuesday night, hours of sometimes heated debate between those who want the stature moved, and those who feel relocation is revolting.
“Having that stature here is pretty much saying that civilization didn’t occur on this continent until he showed up,” said Peter Ortiz of the San Jose Brown Berets, a social activist group.
Ortiz and members of a half dozen groups say far from an explorer and discoverer, Columbus was a conqueror. They say indigenous peoples in the Americas suffered ever since he arrived.
“He didn’t find this country. And that’s what it says on the statue. He is not someone to be praised,” Ortiz said.
Council members consider four possible fates for the nine-foot tall, 6,000 pound statue. One would be to ship it to a warehouse, a second would see it relocated to Mineta San Jose International Airport, inside Terminal-A. A third is to move the statue to the Little Italy section of the city, and the last is to leave it in the lobby of City Hall.
“The important thing regardless of where the statue goes, is this: we recognize we are a diverse community and we are one community. And that we tackle the challenges families face today,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo, D-San Jose.
David Perzinski of the city’s Italian-America Heritage Foundation concedes defeat.
“We have to be practical we have to be real it’s gonna move,” he said while waiting to address the city council on this issue..
He favors an airport touchdown, but worries when all is said-and-done, the Columbus statue’s fate will be the latest, not the last divisive issue.
“There’s a slippery slope going on here. There gonna go from one thing to another to another. This issue isn’t gonna end here, it’s gonna go on,” said Perzinski.
It’ll cost $10,000 to move the statue on a special crate. And two days to dismantle and reassemble it in it’s new home. No word on when the movers will come.