By Orville Williams
In a gesture reminiscent of the widespread contempt for Confederate monuments in the United States, Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Sir Ronald Sanders, called on the Spanish government for its role in promoting the discovery of Christopher Columbus. of the new world ”.
The “Meeting of the two worlds” – also recognized as Discovery Day, el Día de la Hispanidad, the day of the Raza or simply Columbus Day in the United States – is a celebration that marks the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ first trip to the Americas, where he is said to have discovered the “New World”.
The celebration is widely seen as an effort by the international community to show the benefits of collaboration between the “Old World” and the “New World” on the basis of what the two worlds have in common and the possibility of sharing cultural elements which are specific to them respectively. .
Of course, given that the peoples of the Americas had already developed their populations and arguably thrived in the context of this era, countless critics have refuted claims of Columbus’ discovery and even suggested that his efforts were to be blamed for. displacement and global destruction. of these indigenous populations.
Therefore, the continued celebration of Discovery Day and the like are seen as unwanted reminders of the injustice that indigenous peoples have faced.
This is a view shared by Sir Ronald, who made his position clear in a statement to the media yesterday.
“The indigenous peoples of these lands did not need to be discovered. They already had a civilization, a rich culture and knowledge adapted to the sustainability of their environment.
“All of this was either destroyed or desecrated by the arrival of Columbus and his crew, who stumbled upon these lands mistakenly believing they had taken a new route to India,” he said.
He also added that “it was a meeting forged on the ideology of European superiority which today is commonly referred to as racism…, the work, blood and resources of non-whites.”
Sir Ronald also underscored the fact that in addition to genocide and slavery of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, “the meeting opened the door to centuries of brutal slavery of African peoples and the exploitation of Asian contract labor in some Caribbean countries “.
The ambassador assured that Antigua and Barbuda attaches great importance to its modern relations with Spain, but noted that the twin nation would not be a true friend if it “pretends that this opportunity is one that we are. welcome and support ”.
He called for the occasion to be deplored rather than celebrated, adding that the celebration should be discontinued, especially as it reopens wounds and reinforces the strong desire for restorative justice.
Around the world, human rights activists and other groups have called for the removal of symbols that divide communities, ostracize certain racial groups and openly offend others, because of their affiliation with the past – and some would say, with the present tense – actions of racial inequality.
In the United States, the House of Representatives voted last year to remove a bust of Chief Justice Roger B Taney from the Capitol, as well as statues honoring figures who were part of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Taney’s bust was to be replaced with a bust of Judge Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African-American Supreme Court justice and fought legal segregation in the United States as a civil rights lawyer.
This action was brought forward amid protests against the murder of George Floyd and was accompanied by many similar legislative changes that removed protection from these monuments.
Also in the UK, around the same time as the George Floyd protests, anti-racist protesters in Bristol shot down a statue of 17e-th century slave trader Edward Colston, before throwing him into a river.
This statue was later temporarily replaced by a sculpture of protester Jen Reid, who stood on the plinth that housed the previous statue shortly after it was evacuated, fist raised in a ‘dark power’ salute.