A Plea to California Governor Gavin Newsom From Velio Bronzini, a 90-Year-Old Italian American Resident of Castro Valley
As a son of Italian immigrants, I am stunned and appalled that you would even consider removing the statue of Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella from the State Capitol Rotunda. Those monuments not only represent the contributions by Italians to California but also to our great country. Read Mr. Bronzini's letter here. or see below a copy of the article PRIMO MAGAZINE www.onlineprimo.com
The following letter was written by Mr. Bronzini on June 21.
The Honorable Governor Gavin Newsom
President of the Senate Toni Atkins
Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon
Assembly Rules Committee Chairman Ken Cooley
California State Capitol PO Box 94289 Room 204 Sacramento California 95814
As a son of Italian immigrants, I am stunned and appalled that you would even consider removing the statue of Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella from the State Capitol Rotunda. Those monuments not only represent the contributions by Italians to California but also to our great country.
The toppling of the statue of the great navigator and explorer, Christopher Columbus, from San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill was driven by a mob mentality. It is an insult and an affront to people of Italian heritage and to the memory of those such as A.P. Giannini who was extremely instrumental in rebuilding San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. Whether you agree with it or not, as descendants of Italian immigrants we are entitled to the preservation of our history. The contributions made by Italians to our state and country are immeasurable and should not be diminished.
I have heard the argument that Columbus was a polarizing figure; really ladies and gentlemen of the California legislature, you were not elected for the purpose of, nor do you have the right, to re-write history.
The first recorded celebration of Christopher Columbus in the United States was 1792 and he has been celebrated in San Francisco since 1869. In 1891, eleven Italians were lynched in New Orleans; they were murdered by a mob. It was the largest mass lynching in American history. In that period, Italian Americans were the second largest group to by lynched in this country. The following year, in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation and urged Americans to celebrate, marking the day of October 12, in celebration of Columbus’ landing in the Western Hemisphere. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day as an official U.S. holiday.
Although discrimination and abuse of Italian Americans continued, as a people, we have moved forward from the dark days of injustice. The attacks on Christopher Columbus are unfair and obscure the reason why COLUMBUS DAY MATTERS to all Italian Americans. The successes of Italian Americans are being erased by a new wave of bigotry, intolerance, and prejudice by a mob mentality in order to re-write history in their own vision.
If some are offended by the Christopher Columbus statues that is no excuse or reason for their destruction and removal: THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. It is important to the Italian American people (and should be to all people of this country) that the statues remain in place and are looked upon as a part of history, whether individuals or certain groups approve of them or not.
The real danger lies in the fact that it will set a dangerous precedent for future movements by any other group. If something is deemed unjust or offends them, they can pressure lawmakers and have it erased from history.
Columbus Day holds a special significance for me. October 12, 1942 was the day that my father and mother became naturalized American citizens. It was also the date that President Roosevelt announced the lifting of restrictions on non-citizen Italian immigrants who, although in this country legally, at the outbreak of WWII were declared to be enemy aliens. The president lifted the restrictions, recognizing the loyalty and contributions made to our country by the Italian people. I ask that you please do not erase our proud heritage.
Velio Bronzini Castro Valley, California
Editor’s Note: On July 7, without deliberation, debate, or a vote in the legislature, three presiding members of the California Assembly - Toni Atkins, Anthony Rendon, and Ken Cooley - ordered the removal of “Columbus’ Last Appeal to Queen Isabella.” The marble statue that had been in place inside the state capitol rotunda building since 1883 is no longer there.