Don’t Put a Line Through Antiquity [PHIL-OSOPHY]
Removing monuments is identical to removing history.
Bangor, Maine may be the latest community to unearth a commemorative, only this one has local connections. In 1999, a New Bedford contingent, led by the late Edmund Dinis, gifted the City of Bangor a beautiful headstone memorializing Estevan Gomez, a Portuguese navigator and explorer, who landed in the Bangor area on the Penobscot River 500 years ago. The tribute was handcrafted by New Bedford artisan Julio Vascaueelos, a former supervisor for the New Bedford Public Works Department.
Maulian Dana, the tribal ambassador for the Penobscot Nation, said for years that tribal members have been concerned with the memorial, knowing the history of this explorer taking 50 Native people back to Spain and attempting to sell them into the slave trade. Sentiment in Bangor, according to a local poll there, is on the side of clearing it away and working with the New Bedford Portuguese community on a plan to depose it, since thousands of dollars were spent to create it.
Dana said this has nothing to do with politics or anything going on across the country but is all about respecting the Penobscot Nation. I understand where Dana is coming from on that; however, getting rid of these memorials leads us to forget. As a society, we benefit from learning about our past in all its complexity.
There will be three virtual public meetings on Zoom and live-streamed on Bangor's Facebook page at 9 a.m. on September 2, 17 and 30. You can email the cultural commission at bangormaine.gov 24 hours in advance if you'd like to leave a comment.
Put an explainer next to it, but clearing away the monument allows people to fail to recollect or even rewrite history, whereas keeping it in place stands as a predominate reminder of those times.
Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.