San Antonio councilman calls for removal of Columbus statue, renaming of park

Roberto Trevino says Columbus Park should be renamed Piazza Italia

District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino is requesting for the renaming of Columbus Park and removal of the Christopher Columbus statue.

SAN ANTONIO – District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino is requesting for the renaming of Columbus Park and removal of the Christopher Columbus statue.

Trevino filed a council consideration request Wednesday, asking that the City Council place the item on the Governance Committee’s agenda.

Trevino is recommending that the park be renamed to Piazza Italia, according to the document.

“I actually didn’t think I would see what’s going to happen in my lifetime,” said Antonio Diaz with the Texas Indigenous Council, an organization that advocates for indigenous identity and human rights. ”It’s way long overdue. I’ve been requesting this for 22 years.”

He said the Black Lives Matter movement drew attention to not only police brutality, but also the oppression of minorities and others.

"Christopher Columbus brought the institution of slavery which was enslaving the native people," Diaz said.

Diaz and Trevino have been working with the Christopher Columbus Italian Society to finally resolve the long-running issue.

“The Italian Society and its Board have requested the removal of the statue and will accept the return of the statue to their organization,” the document states.

If city council agrees possibly next week to move the statue "fairly quickly" after the vote, Trevino said the Society has been involved in those plans, as well as others including the re-naming of the park and a street, a plaque to replace the statue recognizing the city's Italian heritage and contributions in what once a thriving Italian neighborhood.

Its statement, which you can find in full here, read in part:

"Although the Christopher Columbus statue in the park does not have the same associated feelings for us as it does for others, we want to be respectful and considerate of what it symbolizes and how it impacts them."

Diaz said he believes the society also was worried about vandalism.

"We're glad for whatever purpose or reason they're doing it for," Diaz said.

Diaz and Trevino said SAPD is prepared to handle any armed, self-appointed guardians, from interfering in the proposed plans to relocate the statue to an undisclosed location.

“We can say it’s leaving public land and that’s the end of it,” Trevino said.

Council members John Courage, Manny Pelaez, Melissa Cabello Havrda and Adriana Rocha Garcia signed the council consideration request in support.

Trevino said the five signatures on the CCR moves it to the Governance Committee first, but he’ll ask Mayor Ron Nirenberg to expedite the process to put it on next Thursday’s agenda for a vote, and hopefully approval.

"It's pretty clear cut about what we're doing and it's collaborative," Trevino said.

He said he's asked city staff to begin the process of finding a company to move the 500-600 pound bronze statue.

Trevino also commended the Christopher Columbus Society that donated the statue to the city in 1957, for recognizing what is happening in the nation and locally.

“What was truly amazing here is that we have the cooperation and collaboration of the Christopher Columbus Italian Society,” Trevino said.

Calls for the removal of Columbus statues and confederate statues have reignited as the nation grapples with its history of racism.

According to the city document, the Italian Society and the Office of Historic Preservation will work together to create a plaque to replace the statue. The plaque will honor the Italian community that once thrived in what’s now known as the northern edge of downtown.

In 2017, protesters demanded that the Columbus statue be removed from the park, saying that it represented oppression for Native Americans.

Protestors call for removal of local Christopher Columbus statue

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.