Remove Statue of Columbus in Wooster Square Park (New Haven, CT)

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The Columbus Statue, erected in Wooster Square in 1892, represents nothing but the genocide of Indigenous Americans. Wooster Square is a historically Italian American neighborhood, and many argue that Columbus represents their Italian ancestry, and allows them to celebrate their national pride. I, as an Italian American who lives in Wooster Square, disagree. It makes me ashamed that my community exalts a man that caused so much pain. 

Columbus is credited with being the first European to “discover” the New World. Although his expedition led to the colonization of the Americas, he was not, in fact, the first European to sail to the Americas. 500 years before Columbus, a Viking crew led by Leif Eriksson landed in what is now Canada, and spent a winter there. Eriksson named the area Vinland. After leaving, Eriksson never returned to Vinland, though other Vikings did over the next decade or so, eventually stopping partially because of violent conflicts with the Indigenous people of the area. Eriksson is honored with Leif Eriksson Day, which is October 9th. 

When Columbus arrived at the Americas in 1492, he wreaked havoc upon the Native population. Between 1493 and 1504, the Taino population decreased from 8 million to 100,000 as Columbus made his way around the Caribbean Islands, killing or enslaving those in his way. Columbus kept sex slaves regardless of their age: “... girls… from 9-10… are… in demand.” Along with his soldiers, he brutally killed and raped Natives, despite intervention from the King and Queen of Spain who ordered him to “abstain from doing … (the inhabitants) any injury.” He was not told to murder and rape yet continued to do so of his own accord. 

During his own time, Columbus was found guilty of heinous crimes against the indigenous population of the Americas. He was arrested by Governor Francisco De Bodadilla, and sent back to Spain in chains. When tried in Spain, Columbus was convincted, due to the large amount of evidence against him and his confession to the crimes.

There is no reason for the community of Wooster Square to hold annual celebrations for this man and no reason for his statue to continue being a focal point of the community. Around the world, statues of people known to contribute to the destruction of others are being taken down and New Haven should follow this precedent and remove the statue of Columbus in Wooster Square. If we truly wanted to celebrate our Italian heritage, we could erect a statue of another Italian inventor, such as:

Amerigo Vespucci, from whose name the word America derives, and who is the first to recognize that North America and South America are different continents (1454 - 1512)
Elena Cornaro Piscopia, the very first woman to receive a university degree, which she got in Philosophy from the University of Padua (1646 - 1684)
Antonio Santi Guiseppe Meucci, who is credited with inventing the first telephone (1808 - 1889)
Gugleilmo Marconi, the inventor of the radio (1874 - 1937)
Rita Levi-Montalcini, whose work in neurology earned her a Nobel Prize (1909 - 2012)
Enzo Paoletti, whose work in virology led to progress in vaccine formulation (1943 - 2018)

For more information on Columbus’s crimes: