Earlier this week, Republican legislative leaders signed and sent a letter to the Joint Rules Committee in a last ditch effort to keep the Christopher Columbus statue in the State Capitol Building in Sacramento.
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Led by Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), the letter pleads with the Committee to keep the ‘Columbus’ Last Appeal to Queen Isabella’ statue that has been in the Capitol rotunda since 1883.
Removal had been announced in mid-June following George Floyd protesters removing and defacing other Christopher Columbus statues nationwide due to Columbus’ actions in enslaving and mutilating natives during exploration of the Americas in the 1490’s. Removal of the statue began ten days later with no current plans on re-installation or replacement with another statue.
In the letter, the 8 GOP Senators pushed for keeping the statue because of the historical significance, its importance to the country and Italian-Americans, and because of the history of the statue itself. The letter also notes the negative actions of Columbus while also noting his accomplishments.
“The spirit of human exploration and discovery as well as the stories of our imperfect past display the full spectrum of our history,” notes the leaders in the letter. “Prominent American banker, Darius Ogden Mills acquired the sculpture for $30,000. Mr. Mills was a proponent of making Sacramento the state capital and was critical in the fundraising for the purchase of the original plot of land upon which the Capitol was built. Mr. Mills eventually gifted the statue to be enjoyed by Californians in the people’s house.”
“As misguided as Columbus may have been, history cannot be re-written, nor his accomplishments diminished. Some will say the removal of the statue is anti-Catholic. Others will say it is racist against Italian Americans. We say it is uninformed. We must not allow fear of our past to push us to ignore the lessons learned through uneducated and ignorant action by simply removing our history from sight. What will be next? Removing the Little Sisters of the Poor or Junipero Serra statues?”
Without Columbus, other important figures may replace rotunda spot
Those who oppose the statue have noted many other figures in California history could replace the statue in the rotunda.
“Artists need work right now, so why not have a competition or make multiple statues,” said Rodrigo Martin, a Los Angeles based sculptor who currently has entries for replacement statues in other states. “We can celebrate California’s uniqueness and contribution to the US. We have people on the right like Ronald Reagan, and people on the left like Cesar Chavez. We have pioneers in human rights like Dolores Huerta and Harvey Milk. We have slain people like George Moscone, and even important entertainers who made their mark too.
And if we want to remain unpolitical, how about a bear or another symbol of the state? We’re going to see a push for a replacement, and Californians have a chance to make their mark here through a new statue.”
As of Wednesday, the Columbus statue is still expected to be permanently removed despite the letter and groups calling for the statue to remain inside the Capitol. It is currently unknown where the statue will be kept until a new permanent location is found.
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