To the Editor:
I am writing regarding the statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle. I am a proud first generation Italian American, who, as the son and eventual owner of Centore’s, has strong lifelong connections to downtown Syracuse and the Cathedral, having both run a family-owned business downtown and volunteered extensively at the Cathedral.
I propose removing the statue of Columbus. In its place in downtown Syracuse, I would like to see a statue erected that honors all the immigrants who emigrated here to seek a new life, and in striving through hardship and adversity never gave up hope in their search for liberty and equality. An excellent example of this type of monument is Philadelphia’s Irish Memorial Park that tells the story of the Irish who came during the famine. It contains an enormous statue showing their journey from hunger and oppression to life in a new land. It is not only educational, but extremely moving and beautiful. Obviously our space will not accommodate anything that large, but something similar on a smaller scale would work. I think it’s important to stress that this was the original intent of the Columbus statue.
My uncle, Anthony Sposato, who later became the assistant superintendent of parks for the city of Syracuse, was one of the members of the committee that erected the statue. The statue was not really intended to honor Columbus himself. He was just chosen because he was a man who was well-known to Americans and was originally from Italy. The statue was meant as a tribute to Italian immigrants who left their homes to build a new life here. Like many immigrants to this country, both voluntary and involuntary, they had a difficult life when they first arrived, and faced discrimination and intolerance. Nevertheless, they worked hard to contribute to our society, which was enriched by the diversity of culture, language, food and traditions, and work ethic that they brought to America. I believe their stories need to be taught, remembered and respected, because they were a large part of what really makes America great.
Since the original committee was a group of Italian Americans, if desired, the statue of Columbus could be re-erected in a park in Little Italy so that their descendants of those people, most of whom began their American journey in that neighborhood, could remember their ancestors.
I hope the committee considers this suggestion, and honors the memorial’s original intent.