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Persona Non Grata: Why a Box Is Covering the Christopher Columbus Statue at Grand Park

[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]os Angeles celebrated its inaugural Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday with a panoply of events, native dancing, panel discussions, and of course, a lot of food trucks in and around Grand Park in downtown. But there was one persona non grata.

At the other end of Grand Park, a statue of the Italian explorer – the focus of a wave of revision on his legacy – Christopher Columbus was kept hidden under a big wooden box with red finger paintings.

On the box is pinned a note signed by three organizations, including the L.A. County Arts Commission and the Los Angeles/County Native American Indian Commission, saying the groups are committed to removing the statue from Grand Park.

The box was another signal that Southern California is still shedding once-normal cultural icons that fare poorly with a solid historical view.

Columbus Statue in 2014.
Columbus Statue in 2014.
Columbus Statue under a box in 2018. Photo by Philip Iglauer.
Columbus Statue under a box in 2018. Photo by Philip Iglauer.

“The statue needs to go and the city should be ashamed of itself for acknowledging the egregious harms created by [Columbus] and eliminating Columbus Day, yet allowing a statue of him to remain,” said UCLA professor Shannon Speed, director of the American Indian Studies Center, during a panel discussion organized as part of the celebrations.

Although Indigenous Peoples Day is now county and city law, a few passersby at Grand Park a day after the events weren’t as enthusiastic about removing the statue of the man who for centuries has been credited with launching the European "discovery" — as in colonization — of the Americas.

“I think it is a bad idea to take down the Columbus statue, because maybe it didn’t go down the right way but Columbus still played an important role in history," Gilberto Castaneda of Echo Park told L.A. Taco, as he walked past Tuesday. "So, maybe put up another statue alongside him."

Another woman who passed by, though, said the statue should "definitely be removed," but declined to give her name.

RELATED: How Police Broke Down the Occupy ICE Encampment in Downtown L.A.

Official notices outside of the statue. Photo by Philip Iglauer.

[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]ure, there's no question Christopher Columbus played a major role in history, but statues dedicated to the figure are increasingly coming down across the country. Italian Americans fought against the city’s decision to change the designation of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. They argued the Columbus holiday celebrated their culture as immigrants to the United States.

“It’s probably overkill. But that is my general feeling on a lot of things. I mean, politically correct stuff. I could be pretty hardcore, being black. Obviously, there is a lot of stuff I could bitch about,” Albert Ray, 61, told L.A. Taco. “Much ado about not too much.”

Then Ray thought about it for a minute. “I guess it has some symbolic value," he concluded. "I don’t want to dismiss someone’s grievance or perceived grievance either.”

Currently, there is still no publicly released plan to remove the Columbus statue, but as of this week, the box hiding it from view remains.

RELATED: Taco Cart Guy: Señor Columbus ~ By Lalo Alcaraz

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