Keep the Columbus Statue on Journal Square

typewriter

Dear Editor:

A recent forum questioned the efficacy of maintaining the statue of Christopher Columbus on Journal Square. Many speakers recommended the removal of the statue. We, however, vehemently disagree with that suggestion. Columbus continues to be relevant. We firmly believe that the voyages of Christopher Columbus represent a tremendous human achievement. They symbolize a documented “first encounter.” The importance of Columbus’s voyages should never be trivialized.

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Jersey City artist, Archimedes Aristedes Michael Giacomantonio, sculpted the bronze statue of Columbus. Coincidentally, he also created the Columbus statue which stands in Hoboken’s Columbus Park. The statue of Christopher Columbus has been a part of Jersey City’s history since 1950. Every year, since 1950, the Dante Alighieri Society has placed a wreath at the statue of Columbus on Journal Square during the Columbus Day activities. Over the years, Italian-Americans, Hispanics, and other groups have embraced Columbus Day as an occasion to celebrate and commemorate their culture and ethnic heritage.

We are not attempting to diminish the tragedies that happened during Columbus’s voyages to the New World. However, for many individuals, the journeys of Christopher Columbus epitomize the voyages of – and to – freedom. Perhaps, taking it a step further, Columbus’s voyages represent the start of the globalization of our world. Unfortunately, significant historical events often encompass benefits and consequences.

Columbus has become a controversial figure; and, that controversy – many times fanned by political winds – has tarnished the seafarer’s reputation. Many proudly proclaim that Columbus was a visionary who opened up a new land of opportunity for the oppressed masses of Europe. Others view him as an avaricious opportunist who massacred and spread disease among the indigenous people and institutionalized the slave trade. Without doubt, there are those who would like to see Columbus erased from the annals of history.

Columbus operated under a different set of assumptions, principles and convictions; societal norms which would be offensive by modern standards. As such, We should be very careful about applying 21st- century thinking to the prevailing morality of the 15th century.

Columbus has been an inspiration to all immigrants: People from distant lands who possess the courage and determination to take a chance by coming to the New World with only a glimmer of hope and a desire for a better future for themselves and their posterity.

Christopher Columbus was no “conquistador.” Columbus’s persistence to obtain support for a risky maritime enterprise yielded results that went beyond anyone’s imagination. He opened a New World with unlimited potential and possibilities. For those reasons, we should continue to commemorate Christopher Columbus. His ingenuity, imagination and inspiration have fostered a period of discovery that is still very much alive today.

John Di Genio and Albert J. Cupo