THE STATUE of Christopher Columbus in southeast Port of Spain is being slowly removed, not by the city corporation, protesters or even vandals, but by nature.
The statue has been defaced many times for decades, owing to its association with colonialism.
But it was permanently damaged during a freak storm last Wednesday when a tree broke and fell on top of it.
On Tuesday morning, nearly a week after the storm, workers from the corporation were removing the tree’s branches from the statue when they discovered that the statue’s hands were missing. The arms and sleeves appear to be intact as if the hands were deliberately severed.
The hands have not yet been recovered, but workers believe they are under the branches and will search for them while they continue removing the tree on Wednesday.
Before the storm, a sword attached to the statue also went missing and is believed to have been stolen.
Contacted on Tuesday, Port of Spain mayor Joel Martinez said he knew the storm had toppled a tree close to the statue, but was unaware that the statue itself had been damaged. He said he would look into it but could not confirm whether or not the corporation would consider having it repaired.
The 119 year-old statue is otherwise in poor condition, still spattered with red paint from a vandal’s exploits.
In June the activist group the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project, headed by Shabaka Kambon, together with the Warao Nation – an indigenous group – delivered a petition with over 8,000 names in opposition to the statue’s remaining in place to the corporation. The move coincided with a wave of protests around the world against monuments to those associated with colonialism, racism and in particular the transatlantic slave trade.
Martinez discussed the issue with his council and announced that they had collectively decided to withdraw their interest. The mayor said the matter would be directed to central government, as it constituted a “national issue,” and not one affecting only people living in and around the capital.
Kambon recently spoke with Newsday and said his group had temporarily halted its quest to have the statue removed owing to other pressing issues, including the arrival of the covid19 pandemic. On Independence Day, however, he had said the group was restarting the campaign.