It seems as though there is a small group of citizens advocating for the removal of the statue of Christopher Columbus from the capital city, Port-of-Spain. While the views of this group is highly respected for voicing their concerns, there are some other salient facts which the rest of the population may have some issues with.
To begin with, this group is comprised of approximately 5,000 individuals (this is the amount of signatures reported to be on the petition). This is but a very small fraction of the population and as such cannot adequately reflect the views of the nation at large.
If the population of T&T is approximately 1.4 million people and we subtract the number who are under school age ie one to five-year-olds then the 5,000 signatures represents only 0.38 per cent of the population. The number subtracted is 100,000 since we have a population growth rate of approximately 20,000 births each year, judging from the number writing SEA each year. It means that the 99.62 per cent are the people who are now learning or have learnt before or embedded in their everyday existence that indeed Christopher Columbus was responsible for “rediscovering” our island on his third voyage to the West Indies in 1498.
And that he landed here and claimed this part of the “new world” in the name of the King and Queen of Spain. This is why we still have Spanish influences such as food, music, dress, language and place names. This is very rich history.
It is unreasonable to say that as a result of Columbus’ discovery and subsequent claim in the name of Europe we are now suffering from the misdeeds of those who followed.
Columbus is hailed in history as one of the 10 greatest explorers of all time. Among such names as Marco Polo, Vasco da Gama, Amerigo Vespucci and Charles Darwin. We should consider ourselves lucky to be in the annals of history of such greats. Now, if we are advocating that Columbus’ great feat in travelling all the way from the East to the West in poorly fitted vessels with primitive equipment be thrown aside then are the feats of all these great explorers follow same?
Then what about all the great works of the Governors who came after to colonise the island. What about names such as Antonio Sedeno, Antonio de Berrio and indeed Don Jose Maria Chacon. Are we going to nullify their achievements? Then we may have to change the name of the national flower too.
As was said before, these men were great explorers and the recognition they get is well deserved. They did what they needed to do and in the process they showed courage and fortitude to accomplish their tasks. What followed could have gone either way. At least we the new settlers on these islands should count our lucky stars that we are not living under substandard conditions like overpopulated cities, impoverished rural communities and war torn countries. At least most of us.
We should say thanks to the explorers who opened up a new world with tremendous opportunities if we are willing and adventurous enough to grasp them. Please leave the statue alone, it is part of our history.