Our New New World

Mayor Elorza announced today that the City will be removing the Christopher Columbus statue from its current location in the Elmwood neighborhood until a final determination on the statue’s future can be advised by the Special Committee for Commemorative Works. Actually, the statue came down yesterday, destination unknown. (ProJo 6.25.20)

By the time a three-man crew had fastened the bronze statue with ropes and attached harnesses to the granite pedestal, nearly two hours had passed, and dozens of people from the neighborhood had gathered around Elmwood and Reservoir avenues.

“Take it down! Take it down!” they chanted as a crane lifted the statue into the sky and onto a flatbed truck.

It’s time. The celebration of Christopher Columbus was brought about partly in answer to the discrimination and violence experienced by Italian immigrants arriving here in the 19th-century. But Columbus was not just a glory-seeking explorer, he was also seeking gold to help finance a new crusade for the recapture of Jerusalem from the Muslims, believing that Jerusalem must be in Christian hands before Jesus’ Second Coming. Yeah, one of those guys.

So how did this man end up with a federal holiday and all these statues? In his three voyages to the New World he never once stepped foot in the United States. Lakshmi Gandhi has the convoluted tale at NPR, How Columbus Sailed into History. And this:

Since the 1970s, Columbus’ life and legacy has been examined much more critically by academics and the general public alike, and the mixed feelings now associated with the day reflect that. According to historian Matthew Dennis, “Within 50 years of 1492, the Greater Antilles and Bahamas saw their population reduced from an estimated million people to about 500.” That’s a shocking statistic.

Surely we can find more worthy heroes. Let’s truly honor the memory of those struggling Italian immigrants by breaking the pattern of hatred and violence with which we greet each new group of immigrants. Let’s start treating them the way we wish our forebears had been treated.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Providence Daily Dose