Miami isn’t just the so-called capital of Latin America. It’s also a top dance floor for Latin American hypocrisies, right-footed or left-footed. And we’ve watched a dazzling performance of that South Florida fandango during the anti-racism protests — by folks who want to dance around the truth about Christopher Columbus and Che Guevara.
When I lived in Mexico City in the 1990s, every Oct. 12 — commemorating the day Columbus ran into the Bahamas on his way to Asia — protesters tried to pull down his statue on the Paseo de la Reforma.
They did it for the same reason protesters in the United States are toppling Confederate statues. The brutal enslavement of people in Latin America — which Columbus not only ushered in but took part in — was a crime on par with the brutal enslavement of people in North America.
Now that the explorer’s statues are being targeted in U.S. cities like Miami, we’re hearing one argument after another here that Columbus’ sins shouldn’t be compared to Robert E. Lee’s. They’re disingenuous at best.
I don’t condone vandalizing statues any more than I condone looting. But if defacing property is offensive, so is whitewashing history. Cubans, Mexicans or Brazilians who try to downplay what their conquering Spanish or Portuguese forebears did in this hemisphere are guilty of the same “Lost Cause” mindset that traps so many American Southerners.
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Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN.