The Queen of the Warao Nation Donna Bermudez Bovell has added her voice to the growing chorus of calls for Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez to convene an urgent meeting to discuss the removal of the statue of Christopher Columbus.
“Archaeological evidence shows that the indigenous people of this country have been here for at least 7,500 years and that Port-of-Spain was an important indigenous settlement,” Bermudez Bovell said.
“We want one of our freedom fighters to replace Columbus to reconnect this country with its whole past. Our history did not start 500 years ago.”
In 2017, director of the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project, Shabaka Kambon, an honorary member of the Warao community, joined indigenous elders at the mayor’s office to hand over a letter asking him to facilitate a national dialogue. At a previous meeting in 2018, which included a wide cross-section of civil society, a direct descendant of slave master Hippolyte Borde who erected the statue in 1881 joined the call for removal.
“The lady pleaded with the mayor saying that she wanted him to remove her grandfather’s statue because it did not reflect the core values of our country and we thought that would be enough,” Bovell recalled.
“Regardless of what anyone says locally our people have been calling for the end to the glorification of Columbus since we first spoke at the United Nations in 1977. We sincerely hope that the mayor is paying attention to what is happening around the world today where similar monuments to evil are being torn down and that he is ready to look critically at the ones we have here.
“Mayor Martinez says he respects the first people we want him to show it.”
Christopher Columbus once considered a hero is now increasingly reviled for his primary role in the initiation of the genocide of the indigenous people of the Americas and the transatlantic slave trade.
On Tuesday, a monument to Columbus was toppled, burned and dumped in a lake in Virginia and another was beheaded in Boston as part of the ongoing repercussions of the killing of George Floyd.