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Hands off Columbus statue in Moruga

Published: 
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Activist defends historical significance of monument

Eric Lewis is a descendent of this country's First Peoples. It is an ancestry that he is proud of.

Lewis is also the person who sculpted the monument in Moruga of the man blamed for the genocide of this country's First Peoples, Christopher Columbus.

However, Lewis said he does not feel conflicted by this.

"I don't feel conflicted and neither does the Chief of Moruga (Paul Navarro) and neither does the members of our first peoples," Lewis said.

"I have Spanish decent in me, I have indigenous Amerindian descent, I have East Indian and African. I am one person and if it is that one person can exist in oneself with happiness, joy and peace why shouldn't the world exist in happiness, joy and peace among different faiths, among different beliefs and among different customs."

"So taking that into consideration I myself personally have no enmity against Columbus, the Spanish, or against this and against that. I am a cosmopolitan individual and I think that is 2017, people need to understand we can live and coexist harmoniously without the fight," he said.

On Monday, the Christopher Columbus statue in Port-of-Spain was smeared with red paint to symbolise the blood of the first peoples at the hands of the 15th-century explorer, as the activist group, the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project (CRFP) aims to have the statue removed.

While this was being done in Port-of-Spain the Columbus statue in Moruga remained unscathed as the First Peoples conducted a Water Ritual nearby for their upcoming one-off holiday on Friday.

The T&T Guardian yesterday called Lewis, the prince of Moruga, to get his thoughts on the situation regarding the defacing of the Columbus statue in Port-of-Spain.

Columbus statues have also been defaced around the world in recent times.

"I think generally I understand what is happening in the world today, I understand there is a lot of build up of resentment against the colonial past but if we were really to look at some of the negative things of the colonial past then Trinidad should not even be called Trinidad. Port-of-Spain should not be called Port-of-Spain at all," Lewis said.

In August 1498 Columbus claimed this island for Spain renaming it La Trinidad in honour of the Holy Trinity.

This island had previously been called Cairi "Land of the Hummingbirds" by the Amerindians.

"I think it is just a statue made up of concrete and stone and to me (defacing it) is not actually doing anything to Columbus, however, the individuals (who oppose it) are getting their message out," Lewis said.

If the Columbus statue is removed from Port-of-Spain, Lewis said the Moruga museum would be willing to take it.

Lewis said Moruga was recently approached by the director of the CRFP Shabaka Kambon to have their Columbus statue taken down and a meeting was held with interest groups in the area.

"The People of Moruga thought it an insult that someone from Port-of-Spain should come to them and ask for the removal of their statue," Lewis said.

Lewis said no matter how you feel about Columbus there is no denying that he is a part of this country's history.

"The statue of Columbus represents a historical fact of Columbus' influence whether it was good, bad or ugly the statue is there to show the historical significance," he said.

"It is not that we are celebrating Columbus, we are celebrating Moruga and Moruga's history," Lewis said.

"I am not saying forget your past, you take your past, you learn from it and the fact that the Columbus monument stands in Moruga is something we can learn from, it is history," he said.

Today at 10 am, representatives of the CRFP accompanied by various representatives of the Indigenous People of Trinidad and Tobago are scheduled to go the Port-of-Spain Mayor's office to hand over a letter to Mayor Joel Martinez calling for the removal of the statue of Christopher Columbus in the capital.

"The CRFP believes that it is wrong to ask Caribbean citizens, particularly Indigenous People, to accept national property occupied by reverential statues to the man who stole and renamed their lands, who trafficked, raped and enslaved their ancestors, destroyed their way of life and denied their humanity," a release from Kambon stated yesterday.