By Msgr Christian D Pereira
The evolution of any nation requires recognition of its origins and an appreciation of all that is great and noble of the past. This holds true for the nation of Trinidad and Tobago. We cannot evolve in a life-giving way if we despise our past. We all need to understand from where we came so that we can pay attention to the learnings from the past and really move forward.
It is my desire to see Trinbagonians pay proper recognition of our past, and value and appreciate from where we have come (Black Stalin).
This country existed thousands of years before Europeans came. The arrival of the Europeans meant an adoption of their ways, and they placed their particular stamp on our country. The Europeans even gave our country a new name without any regard for the original name given to this land by the First Peoples.
It is appropriate to note that for many years the First Peoples of our nation have been lobbying for proper recognition, and assistance in creating an Amerindian Village in the heights of Arima. A village recreated to reveal the original way their people once lived, to reclaim their traditions and practices which formed a great civilisation, and for the population to be able to value what was destroyed by those who came before.
The Europeans came, they did injury to our people, culture, economy, and our environment, but they also initiated and, to some extent, directed the present path of our civilisation. We cannot pretend that it never happened, or that it should not have happened. Columbus (with all his misinformation) arrived and he and his legacy form part of our history.
As we recognise their plans, and contributions, I also believe that the Europeans who came with Columbus should be given some sort of recognition, maybe, in the creation of some kind of European (Colonial) village.
I am also supportive of removing the visible prominence that some of these Europeans have at present, namely, statues, name of streets and buildings and/or places of sightseeing.
Our country owes it to ourselves (and to nobody else) to be integrated with the past, as painful and as ugly as it is; but the total destruction of these realities is to destroy part of our soul, to damage our psyche.
In much the same way that the First Peoples have been seeking to recreate an Amerindian village in honour of our ancestors, so too we should seek to recreate a ‘village” or a museum, where we can view the pain, the terror and the positive aspect of our European influence in an authentic way.
It is also necessary to cultivate various authentic realities as the Divali Nagar, the annual African Village, the Chinese presence, the Portuguese, and the Syrian/Lebanese contributions, among others.
Such recognition of our past can complement/enhance the teaching of history at all levels of our education system as well as contribute to a form of localised development and the thrust towards the so far elusive diversification of our economy.
There is little value in removing the statue without recreating symbols that will contribute positively to our development as a young Republic lest we continue to repeat the mistakes of Columbus.
Msgr Christian Pereira is the parish priest of St Benedict’s, La Romaine