Statue of Christopher Columbus in Port of Spain. (Image courtesy Port of Spain City Corporation)

The Queen of the Warao Nation, Donna Bermudez-Bovell, is calling on Mayor Joel Martinez to convene an urgent meeting to discuss the removal of Christopher Columbus from his place of public reverence in Port of Spain, following his public pronouncement to engage the matter on Wednesday.

The contentious statue is located on the corner of Independence Square and Duncan Street, in the capital city.

In a news release issued by the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project, the Warao Nation Queen lamented the fact that indigenous people continue to be un-represented in the built environment of the capital city.

“Archaeological evidence shows that the indigenous people of this country have been here for at least seven thousand five hundred years and that Port of Spain was an important indigenous settlement,” Bermudez-Bovell said. “It seems the city even now prefers to celebrate the architect of native genocide.”

She added: “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.”

“Two and a half years have passed. Charlotte Street is now Chinatown, and indigenous people still have to bear this insult to our ancestors and our dignity,” she said.

The release notes that in 2017, the 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 publicly handover a letter asking His Worship to facilitate a national dialogue.

At a subsequent meeting in 2018, which included a wide cross section of civil society, a direct descendant of the slave master Hippolyte Borde, who erected the statue out of his own pocket in 1881, joined the call for its 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,” the Warao Queen recalls.

“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.”

The release says indigenous people now await an official announcement from Mayor Martinez.

Christopher Columbus, once considered a hero, is now increasingly reviled for his primary role in the initiation of the brutal genocide of the indigenous people of the Americas and the transatlantic slave trade—two of the greatest crimes in human history.

On Tuesday in the United States, 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.

Meanwhile, today on its Facebook page, the Port of Spain City Corporation launched an online poll, soliciting feedback from citizens as to whether the contentious statue should be removed.

More than 2000 petitions signed to remove Chrisopher Columbus Statue in Columbus Square, Port of Spain. Should it be removed?

An online petition has been signed by various sectors of our nation’s public, including some stakeholders for the removal of a memorial of Christopher Columbus at Columbus Square, POS, in solidarity with the global Black Lives Matter movement.

The monument, which is located on the corner of Independence Square and Duncan Street was opened by Governor Young in 1881and a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus stands in the middle of a fountain in the Square as a tribute to Christopher Columbus who was credited with the rediscovery of Trinidad & Tobago in 1498.

Statues of figures with links to slavery and monuments and memorials that celebrate ‘racist history’ have been toppled in the US and UK in recent days. Therefore, calls are being re-ignited by citizens to remove the Christopher Columbus monument and the like.

POLL: Should the Christopher Columbus memorial in Columbus Square be removed?
Yes / No / I’m not sure