August 21, 2011

Giant Columbus statue rejected

Unloved Columbus makes landfall at lastA towering 600-ton statue of Christopher Columbus that has been rejected by New York, Miami, Baltimore and other cities may finally find a home on an uninhabited Puerto Rican island.

According to media reports, local lawmaker David Bonilla filed a resolution asking the government to study the viability of installing the bronze statue, which is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty without its pedestal, on the island of Desecheo.

The unassembled monument, known as "Birth of the New World," was first rejected by the US government. Russian sculptor Zurab Tseretelli attempted to have it installed in the US in 1992 to mark the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ 1492 journey to the Western Hemisphere.
It was then accepted by Puerto Rico to be erected in Catano, a seaside suburb of San Juan. But it failed to get any support from local residents. The move called for demolishing several dozen homes, and problems arose with airplane flight paths.

The statue was then proposed for Mayaguez. The private contractor in charge of building a series of facilities for the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games announced that the corporation had bought the structure and would erect it in the municipality, but an appropriate location was never found. It has been in storage in Mayaguez ever since.

The statue shows Columbus at the wheel of a tiny ship with three billowing sails behind him. Critics have said the explorer's arms are too long, the head too small and his one-handed greeting pose silly.

Comment:  I like the overall look of this monument: the abstract ship, the abstract globe, the balance between sails and pedestal. But it fails for several reasons:

1) The head and arms do look distorted and silly.

2) Although it might work in some harbors that need a focal point, kind of like a lighthouse, it's too big for most locations.

3) The "Birth of the New World" title is obviously offensive. Changing the title should be a condition of installing it anywhere.

4) The world doesn't need another monument to Columbus. There are too many of them already.

Three strikes and you're out. Four and you're way out.

It's kind of mind-boggling that Tseretelli would build the monument 1) without a guaranteed home and 2) with anatomical flaws that people would surely hate. One wonders what he was thinking.

It would be hard to convert this concept into a monument about Indians, or anything other than Columbus. Even if Tseretelli fixed the flaws, I'm not sure what anyone would do with it. It belongs in Genoa or a Columbus theme park--i.e., somewhere people still honor him for launching the invasion of the Americas.

Another posting says, "Today, Columbus lies fragmented in thousands of pieces of bronze, deteriorating in an outdoor lot next to the Bacardi Factory in CataƱo." That's about all it deserves. I'm guessing common sense will prevail and this monument will never rise again.

For more on the subject, see Columbus Statue Defaced on Columbus Day and Columbus Toppled in Venezuela.


Anonymous said...

Also, the globe has the unfortunate implication that Columbus came up with the round world.

none said...

What would make this awesome would be if there was a cartoon thought bubble right above his head that read: "I knew I should've taken that left turn at Albuquerque."

Jaine said...

it's only useful purpose is military target practice

Rob said...

I'm not sure the inverted globe is meant to symbolize anything. It may just be a quirky way of turning a sphere into a pedestal.

For more on the subject, see:

Shunned Columbus Statue May Be Erected in Puerto Rico

The Associated Press said that Bonilla, who vowed to keep pushing for the Desecho location, “envisions pictures, T-shirt sales and even helicopter rides linked to the statue.” Madoff commented that “[w]e’re thrilled that there’s so much excitement now about the statue.”

Nearly lost amid the debate over where to put the thing were the voices of protest that it will be erected at all. Twitter user Adonaiman wrote that “Giant Columbus statue in Puerto Rico is like giant George Bush statue in Iraq,” while user vgbnd wrote “A statue of Columbus in Puerto Rico? A celebration of slavery, slaughter and sickness? I don’t think so….” The Aboriginal News Group website posted a petition titled “We the Indigenous people of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean say NO to a giant statue of Columbus,” where a number of the more than 180 signatories have voiced their disgust.

“To erect a statue to honor Columbus is an insult to Indigenous people,” wrote a user from Massachusetts.