Being a diligent student of Bahamian history and a keen observer of events taking place in our young nation, I have been quite interested in the debate concerning the statue of Christopher Columbus.
The cliché “easier said than done” can truly be applied to the suggestion that it should be removed from its prominent position.
There are, indeed, three major reasons why such a significant act requires most careful and cautious consideration.
First, whatever may be one’s “take” about Christopher Columbus, there can be no doubt that he was instrumental in bringing about one of the major events in the history of humankind—the rediscovery of the new world on October 12, 1492, on the island of San Salvador. As such, he stands as a central figure in the history not only of The Bahamas but of the whole, wide world.
Second, it is an historical landmark. Yes, the Columbus bust must be ranked with Fort Charlotte, Fort Montague, The Sixty-Six Steps, The Pompey Museum, The Water Tower, and the statue of Queen Victoria as monuments of events that shaped the history of these “Isles of June.”
In the Bible, it is recorded that monuments were erected to remind the old, and inform the young of divine provision for the protection and prosperity of the people of God.
Likewise, we need the monuments cited above, so that our young Bahamian school children seeing them, can learn more about our exciting history! And take pride in it!
Third, the imposing, impressive Christopher Columbus is a major tourist attraction. Visitors from the United States and Europe, especially from Italy, where the great admiral was born, and Spain, where he set sail, are, especially, fascinated by it.
Despite these facts, it has to be realized that attitudes and opinions about Columbus have changed.
The rejection of colonialism, the rise of nationalism and the reading of history from the perspective of the oppressed have combined to bring about a much more critical assessment of Columbus and all European “Old World” heroes.
Bahamian historians such as Dr. Gail Saunders, Father Rev. Dr. Sebastian Campbell, Dr. Christopher Curry, and Wesley Campbell have all contributed to us taking more pride in our history.
The challenge facing us now is: How do we attribute due credit to Columbus while taking into consideration the thinking of our people in the post-colonial era?
Several questions of momentous consequence arise here. If we remove the statue of Columbus, what would we do with it? Surely, such an important historical monument cannot be hidden in some obscure location!
Someone has suggested that it be placed in a museum: What? Which museum anywhere in the region can accommodate such a colossal icon?
And, finally, if it is removed, what will replace it?
So, now that we are a sovereign state in charge of our own destiny, under God, it would be most appropriate for the monument of Christopher Columbus to be replaced by that of Sir Milo Butler, first Bahamian governor general of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas!
This leads directly to the third question: “What shall we do with Christopher Columbus?” As pointed out above, such an historical icon cannot be hidden; moreover, there is no museum to contain it.
Well, what about the idea of removing it to the island of San Salvador?
Indeed, it could be the central attraction of a huge theme park/museum of the Americas, on the island of the landfall of Columbus.
Such a gigantic project, jointly developed by the private sector and the government of The Bahamas, would prove to be a major tourist attraction. Visitors, from all over the world would want to come.
It would serve to give due credit to Columbus, a center for historical research, and a mighty boost not only to the economy of San Salvador but also for that of the entire Bahamas.
All this leads us straight to the question: “What, then, should we do with the vacancy at Rawson Square? Well, it is suggested that it would be the ideal location for a monument of some kind to Sir Roland Symonette.
First, he is the only one of our four national heroes for whom there is no such tangible memorial!
It is faithfully submitted that this eventual arrangement would prove beneficial because it would give due recognition to Christopher Columbus as a pivotal figure in the history of our beautiful Bahamaland, and indeed of all humankind, and due recognition would be attributed to our four national heroes with an appropriate monument to each of them:
Sir Milo Butler on Mount Fitzwilliam, in front of Government House, seat of ceremonial authority.
Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield being in the Office of the Prime Minister, bastion of political power.
Sir Lynden Pindling, “Father of the Nation” being the airport, center of communication between the islands of our young nation.
Sir Roland Symonette “father of the House” at Rawson Square.
It would result in the creation of a brand new major tourist attraction/history research facility theme park, which would jump start the economy of San Salvador with positive ripple effects for the entire Commonwealth.
At this time, as we are making recovery from the devastating effects of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19, and looking forward to celebrating the 47th anniversary of independence, let us work together to rebuild our young nation by excelling in love and unity.
The Rev. Dr. Joseph Emmette Weir