“Trying to rewrite history and pretend that things never existed is a futile and hypocritical and dangerous endeavour.”
So said Spain’s Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Javier Carbajosa, in a passionate letter to the editor yesterday giving his views on calls to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus from Columbus Square in Port of Spain.
Following is the text of the letter to the editor from the ambassador:
For several days now, I have been following with great concern the news on social networks and in the media that point to an intensification of the demands to remove the statue of Admiral Christopher Columbus from its current location in Port of Spain. The image of the admiral’s defaced statue is particularly unsettling.
Honestly speaking, my first reaction was one of amazement: Really?!! At a time in which Covid-19 is still among us and the consequences on the economy of Trinidad and Tobago seem uncertain. Really?!!! Is this an urgent problem for Trinidad and Tobago NOW?
I will not get into whether or not the desecration of public property is an offence in this country’s legislation. Neither will I get into the pros and cons of the admiral’s arrival in the Americas.
The truth is that this is not the first time that the indigenous movement and all those who support it have launched an offensive of this kind. Today, taking advantage of the momentum generated by protests in the US, this offensive seems to be gaining unusual strength.
Notwithstanding that, at the end of the day, the final decision is up to the T&T authorities, I would like to make some considerations.
History cannot be rewritten to the taste of the consumer. It is what it is, with its lights and shadows, and it is part of our legacy. We should accept it and learn from it. My point is that trying to rewrite history and pretend that things never existed is, in my opinion, a futile and hypocritical and dangerous endeavour.
The Roman Empire occupied Spain for centuries. Still today we have statues of Roman emperors located in different cities in Spain such as that of Caesar Augustus in Tarragona and Zaragoza. Further down the line, Spanish King Ferdinand VII (certainly someone who didn’t go down in history as a great monarch) has a statue in Seville.
Oliver Cromwell, who suppressed the British Parliament, initiated a dictatorship, triggered a civil war, and beheaded a king, has a relevant monument just before the gates of the present Parliament in London.
If the City of Port of Spain begins with the removal of Admiral Columbus’s statue, what will be the next step? I guess that one will have to rename the capital city (a part of the Spanish legacy, as other cities like San Fernando, Sangre Grande, Maracas, Las Cuevas, Santa Cruz, Rio Claro, Cedros, Icacos etc), and of course the very name of the island “Trinidad”, chosen as a reflection of the pious character of the admiral (the Holy Trinity).
I guess that the next step would be to remove the name from the streets and highways of some other “unfavourable” historical figures such as Abercromby, Picton and Churchill, among others. Let’s not forget our French friends and in the same vein, let’s also rename Blanchisseuse and Champs Fleurs.
Should we take the argument to its extreme, I guess that all the signage at the airport and throughout the country, in Spanish and in English, would have to be removed and replaced with another language, since they represent the vestiges of “an oppressing force”.
On a personal level, I will not hide from you that the removal of the admiral’s statue would be the cause of great sadness for me and my government, since we have almost been extremely proud of the bonds of friendship and cultural interaction between our countries.
Once again, and aware as I am, that this is up to local authorities, I think it would be wise to think twice about the consequences of our actions.