Christopher Columbus

Suzanne Sheppard

Following close on the calls for the renaming of Picton Street and other memorials that honoured 18th-century governor, Sir Andrew Picton is an online petition calling for the removal of two statues of Christopher Columbus.

The petition, launched on the Change.org platform, is by the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project and is directed to Port-of-Spain mayor Joel Martinez.

Cross Rhodes has been lobbying for dialogue and action to stop the glorification of some colonial figures, and ensure that local and regional heroes and heroines are properly honoured and memorialized in public spaces.

The group has been campaigning for the removal of the Christopher Columbus statues in Port of Spain and Moruga to museums where they can be properly contextualized.

In a statement accompanying the petition, Cross Rhodes noted that T&T was the first to end the celebration of Discovery Day in 1984, a decade before most other countries in the hemisphere.

Explaining its current campaign, Cross Rhodes said: “We must face the fact however that we continue to publicly glorify the murderous colonizer who initiated two of the greatest crimes in human history: the genocide of the Indigenous people of the Caribbean and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade both of which are at the root of the racial injustice that our generation is protesting today.”

There are two statues Columbus in T&T. The first, located in Port-in-Spain, was erected in 1881 by Hippolyte Borde, a wealthy merchant and cocoa planter, while the other was erected in Moruga in 2010 by the Erick Lewis.

There have been calls for the removal of Columbus monuments since the 1970s. However, the campaign gained momentum in 2017 when Cross Rhodes began staging peaceful protests and had consultations with Martinez calling for a national dialogue on the issue.

According to Cross Rhodes, a descendant of Hyppolyte Borde is among those who have pleaded with the mayor to remove her grandfather’s statue.

The group was successful in getting the oldest hall of residence at the UWI, St Augustine, renamed Freedom Hall. It had for 70 years been named after Lord Alfred Milne a race supremacist who helped found the system of apartheid in South Africa in 1948

Cross Rhodes is also lobbying for the Lopinot Estate in Arouca to be reestablished as a memorial to the descendants of slaves.