San Jose Observes Columbus Day, Agrees to Relocate Statue

Public outcry may have convinced San Jose to oust a Christopher Columbus statue from City Hall, but on Monday the building will go dark in honor of the Italian explorer.

Columbus Day has inspired controversy ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt made it a federal holiday in 1937, calling it a celebration of “the promise which Columbus’ discovery gave the world.” But a growing number of cities have chosen to dedicate the day to the native inhabitants of land Columbus claimed to discover.

In 1991, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas, Berkeley became the first U.S. city to designate the date as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Several jurisdictions have since followed suit, including Seattle, Denver, Albuquerque and, just this week, Los Angeles County.

San Jose, however, continues to observe the holiday as defined by FDR eight decades ago. Here, the debate over Columbus has centered on his marble likeness in City Hall.

As monuments honoring slave-owning Confederate leaders came toppling down in other parts of the nation, activists in San Jose launched a petition to remove the Columbus figure from public view.

Last month, the city acknowledged that it’s best to relocate the statue, which the Italian-American community donated to the public in 1958, and to hold a town hall in November to talk about alternate sites. The decision by a City Council subcommittee came after an hour of public testimony that cast Columbus as a symbol of genocide and colonialism.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who is part Italian, ultimately acknowledged during the meeting that it would be best to move the statue elsewhere. But only after taking it upon himself to speak on behalf of the Italian-American community, as no one showed up to defend the statue.

“We have schools named after presidents who owned slaves,” Liccardo said at the Rules and Open Government Committee meeting, according to the Mercury News. “Life and history are both complex. We just need to acknowledge that people we may honor for doing great things have also committed great atrocities or great sins.”

A day later, 25-year-old Gina Darlene Gonzalez allegedly smeared black and red paint over the sculpture.

It wasn’t the first time someone has expressed disapproval of the statue by defacing it. In 2001, a man smashed Columbus’ face with a sledgehammer, matching each blow with shouts of “Murderer!” and “Genocide!”

“Maybe the city is finally getting the message,” says Julie Rodriguez, a 28-year-old activist of Ohlone, Mexican and Italian descent. “City Hall is not an appropriate place for a statue of someone who symbolizes oppression.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Getting vanquished is rough, I get it. That was awhile back, though. Eyes shouldn’t be in the rear view mirror all the time but on the road ahead, especially if you’re driving a Ferrari!

  2. City Hall is no longer good enough for a statue of Columbus.

    Put the dog pile statue there.

    Maybe statues of Hillary Clinton, science C-student Al Gore, and mega-donor Harvey Weinstein, too.

    Or, a statue of Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch’s famous meeting to talk about grandchildren.

  3. Then too shouldn’t we be getting rid of all traces and remnants of the conquering Spanish by doing away with names like San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles? Where does the Stupidity Road end?

  4. Personally, I celebrate the removal of the Columbus statue, just as I celebrate all low-impact acts that bring awareness to the real threat to our well-being, epidemic stupidity.

    — To assign the sin of genocide to Columbus makes as much sense as condemning the inventor of sailcloth for the same; without his contribution the native peoples of the Americas might still have the great oceans to protect them, their stone age existence, and their traditional acts of small-scale war and genocide.

    — Hispanic idiots who demonize Columbus — who was but an agent of the Spanish Crown, demonize one part of their ancestry allegedly on behalf of the other part of their genome. How that improves their lot is anyone’s guess, but given that they would not exist as a people had Queen Isabella been otherwise distracted, perhaps we should chalk it up to self-hatred.

    — Rather than focusing on the negatives: the disease, racism, and greed that killed and displaced so many, Native Americans should appreciate that were it not for Christian values their European conquerers might well have murdered every last one of them (an age-old tactic, one strongly recommended in my soon-to-be-released book, “Extermination for Dummies”).

    — After decades spent generating political power by condemning American institutions instead of promoting self-improvement and personal accountability among their charges, Hispanic leaders have turned their sights on American history. Question: how many more Hispanics will drop out of school or commit a street gang-related crime between now and the day the illegal alien moving men come for Christobal?

    — Journalism has degenerated to the point where the term public outcry — as in “Public outcry may have convinced San Jose,” should be understood to mean progressive agenda.

  5. I think it would be appropriate to place the statue of Columbus in LIttle Italy along Guadalupe River Park. I suggest that everyone read, “1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created,” by Charles C. Mann.

  6. Yes,The Americas are such a terrible place now that mass genocide committed by the native peoples here in the name of the sun god have been stopped. Cutting open live humans and eating their hearts was such a wonderful thing. Open warfare living in squalid conditions no written language. Killing off endangered species after the last ice age yum yum.

    Yes Columbus certainly screwed thing up, but how much longer would this garden of terror lasted had the indigenous genius’s that were eating each other had discovered Europe insted?

  7. If you listen to them talk it seems that today’s progressives would have sided with the right wing anti immigrant faction among the 15th century native Americans.
    They have plenty of respect for that culture. Too bad they’re so aquiescent when it comes to their own culture being subsumed by foreign invaders.

  8. This is another example of judging people in a different century by current social standards.

    But what happens when those standards change, as they always do? Do we tear down the statues of Cesar Chavez and MLK?

    Why does this City Council and Mayor tuck tail and run when this nameless, faceless gang of finger-waggers make their demands? How about at least giving the residents of this city a vote on the matter? They’d see that the antifa types who are demanding that the statues must be removed are in reality just a small minority in the city. But they probably know that already…

    …just like they know it’s only a minority of residents who want bicycle paths taking over our city streets.

  9. If you’re going to tear things down or move them because you have attached some negative element to it then you better disband and close the Democratic Party because of its history of racism, pro-slavery belief, its creation of the KKK, and its violence against the black culture. Fair is fair, and when I hear and see elements referencing the Democratic Party I feel sick.

  10. As famous cartoon figure Charlie Brown so eloquently stated “Good Grief”.
    Where and when will the nonsense end!
    Happy Columbus Day!

  11. Yet again some nano-group with an axe to grind has managed to divert the attention of the mayor and council from important business like police, fire, library hours, and our third world streets. Of course, the mayor and council are thankful for the diversion, since it took the spotlight off their utter failure in regard to things that are important to 99.9% of the population to instead spend hours catering to a nattering mob of 100 in a city of one million. I have no doubt that those of the 100 who spoke against the evil Columbus who have jobs gladly celebrated Columbus Day by taking a paid holiday.

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