(Opinion, Your Letters) ‘That monument is in our DNA’

I write this in reply to the Women of Italian Syracuse Heritage (WISH) letter that outlined why the writers want the Columbus statue and monument destroyed and then moved (”Women’s group laments judge’s decision in favor of Columbus Monument,” March 15, 2022).
I have worn many community hats in my hometown of Syracuse being born here and never leaving for any extended amount of time. It is my only home; it was my parents’ home all their lives; it was my four grandparents’ home for most of their lives being born in southern Italy — in the province of Calabria. I will not leave Syracuse. Christopher Columbus will not leave his home here in Syracuse, either. He has lived here for 88 years. It is his home. He has every legal right to remain in his “home.” Judge Gerard Neri just ordered that the monument not come down at the hands of Mayor Ben Walsh or the City of Syracuse.
Syracuse was so named in the middle of the 19th century after much thought by citizens of Syracuse. It was named after Siracusa, Italy, because both Siracusa, Sicily, and Syracuse, New York, had famous salt mines so the fit seemed natural. Siracusa is the closest city to Africa and has been the target of many foreign countries’ takeovers; its people were and are strong, proud people who have fought over the centuries to remain free. We Italian Americans in Syracuse are of the same stock. We will fight! We will never give up! We, too, are strong and proud people who will not be conquered at Walsh’s whims and self serving wants.
That monument is in our DNA. It is part of the fabric of our cultural heritage. We can’t begin to understand the cultural heritage impact it has on our Italian Heritage. That impact can only occur if it is left exactly as it is and always at St. Mary’s Circle, nowhere else. That is not to say we wish to remain there all alone with no other respect and admiration given to other heritage communities of our great city. Just as Christopher Columbus has come to symbolize a new home of opportunity, survival and rebirth for all … .all should be present in what we want to name a Heritage Park. We have always thought that and originated that idea though others have claimed that those ideas are theirs. Not true!
My Uncle John in the 1940s would take me down to the monument. He loved the Columbus Monument; he loved the Columbus statue. He couldn’t get enough of that site. He came here a tailor and worked himself into prosperity working in the Pietrafesa’s Learbury Clothing Factory. He was an extremely proud man. He often praised Columbus as we looked up at him. But when things were not going well for him, he would damn the man and ship that brought him here. Columbus’s power was so strong for him and so wrapped up in this life that there was no difference between the man, the monument and my uncle. I cannot attest to why that was, or what created that fervor in my Uncle John. It was present and that is all I need to know.
It hurts to the quick when WISH women state their anger and venom. The only time they seem to have any pride in their heritage is when they are demeaning that heritage and castigating Columbus.

Bob Gardino, 3/22/22

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