Emotion were high yesterday at the Port-of-Spain City Corporation when the Warao Nation and the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project delivered a petition to Mayor Joel Martinez calling on him to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus from the capital city.
Martinez was being interviewed by the media when the Warao Queen, Donna Bermudez-Bovell, interjected, telling him she was fed up of waiting on a decision to be made about the statue.
Bermudez-Bovell’s group had petitioned Martinez in 2017 to have the statue removed. But that petition got no results.
A new petition was started by Cross Rhodes on June 10 and quickly sparked national attention, reaching over 8,000 signatures by last evening.
“For my people, this is very hard and we had enough of it because I don’t want my grandchildren living on lies. This needs to be removed and needs to remove now. It has two statues to be removed and I would like within seven days for you to give me an answer. I’m not for the six months and three months and waiting thing again,” Bermudez-Bovell said.
“We had enough and I am fed up passing and looking at that statue on a pedestal, where this man kill out my people, rape, kill, feed the babies to the dogs!”
Bermudez-Bovell said the First People were tired of the genocide of their ancestors being misrepresented in history books but the group has no objection to Columbus’ monument being placed in a museum.
“We want to do this peacefully but it cannot be done peacefully, then I’m sorry people, whatever my people do, you all will have to accept it,” she said.
The statue was defaced earlier this week—with vandals covering it in “Danger” tape and signs, including saying “Murderer.”
Cross Rhodes director Shabaka Kambon was also present. Kambon echoed her sentiment.
“I don’t think we can be satisfied today unless we get from the Mayor, a specific announcement about what will happen next, a specific step because listening to dialogue, is not enough. We need some kind of official statement that has a beginning and an end otherwise we will not be able to dictate to the people how the statue will be treated,” Kambon said.
Martinez tried to calm the group but was interrupted several times while speaking.
Eventually, after almost half an hour of back and forth between the group and Martinez, he gave an assurance that by next Wednesday, they would receive feedback from him on the council’s decision regarding the statue.