Replace the statue of Christopher Columbus in Little Italy with Chef Boyardee

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In 1988, Clevelanders erected a statue to Christopher Columbus in Little Italy. Today it sits in front of Tony Brush Park, and it is the centerpiece of the annual Columbus Day Parade. It is allegedly a monument to a legendary Italian explorer and a symbol of Italian-American pride.

Except it isn't. Columbus is not someone we should celebrate. He was a racist monster who initiated the genocide against indigenous Americans. He pioneered the Transatlantic slave trade and likely sent more enslaved people across the sea than any other person. The trade in enslaved Indians was the forerunner to and the basis for the trade in enslaved Africans. According to Spanish historian Peter Martyr, a contemporary of Columbus, so many enslaved Indians died on these journeys that "a ship without a compass, chart, or guide, but only following the trail of dead Indians who had been thrown from the ships could find its way from the Bahamas to Hispaniola." Columbus also bragged in a letter about selling 9- and 10-year old girls into sex slavery. He was, as historian Patrick Wyman put it, "a dogshit person even by the standards of the late 15th century." We don't even know if Columbus was Italian. There is scant evidence to back up the notion that he was born in Genoa, something he never claimed in his own writings. He never wrote in his supposedly native tongue, and some scholars think he was Jewish, Spanish, or Portuguese.

If Italian-Americans in Cleveland want to celebrate one of their own, they need look no further than the iconic Ettore (Hector) Boiardi, AKA Chef Boyardee. Born in Piacenza, Ettore immigrated to the U.S. at age 16 in 1914. He eventually moved to Cleveland, where he opened a restaurant, Il Giardino d'Italia, that was so popular people asked him to bottle his sauce for them.

Boiardi and his brothers built a canned food empire from the ground up, opening a factory in Milton, Pennsylvania. During World War II, this company produced canned food for American soldiers 24/7. The U.S. government recognized his contributions to the war effort by awarding Chef Boyardee with a Gold Star in 1946, and the Italian government awarded him a Cross of Honor and the title “king of the spaghetti dinner."

It's time for Cleveland to remove its statue to a genocidal sociopath with a bowl cut and erect a statue to an immigrant success story who enriched our community with his food and iconic mustache.