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Christopher Columbus's smashed head can be repaired, but then he'd forever be Scarface Columbus, experts tell city

The Boston Art Commission has received reports from two statue restoration experts that while the remains of the decapitated Columbus statue from the eponymous North End park can be reassembled, the mortar used to paste his head and neck back together "would be visible" to people wanting to gaze upon him.

Just as bad, there's not really any way to protect the statue from future beheading or worse by a determined adversary: There are "no known materials" that can make the granite statue impervious to attack and that while embedding a large "pin" in his head could make it harder to rip his head off again, "if significant force is used on the larger pin, it would result in more damage to the stone than the smaller pin."

The statue had its head smashed off in June, presumably with a similar motive to an early beheading, as a protest over Columbus's role as a genocidal madman.

Also, while the statue could be coated with a sealant that would ward off the red paint he's been doused with in the past, the commission heard, but the sealant would have to be applied regularly and would change the look of the statue.

Before hearing the reports, commission Director Karen Goodfellow emphasized that the commission has no say over the name of the park , that that is a matter for the Boston Parks and Recreation Commission. Following the beheading, Mayor Walsh said North End residents would decide the ultimate fate of the statue and the name of the park.

The statue currently sits in a city warehouse for safekeeping.

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Comments

If only there was an Italian fraternal order of knights that could protect Columbus.

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regarded as the series' worst.

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"... the mortar used to paste his head and neck back together "would be visible" to people wanting to gaze upon him."

Statues get restored all the time. The restoration is visible. There are statues that show the restored parts clearly in order to be historically accurate.

The destruction of this statue is just merely a part of the history of the statue. The repairs show clearly the destructive vandalism of certain elements of our society.

Solution? Make a cast of the statue then mount cheap fiberglass knockoffs. Replace them as necessary.

Like the sword in the 54th statue bas relief in front of the State House.

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We should pick a better Italian idol to worship... if we need one at all. Columbus is a vessel of butcherous history lessons personified.

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Like Amerigo Vespucci?

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and the horrific feet of clay, say, in museum exhibits that tell the whole story. Same for Confederate icons, agents of native genocide, etc. Public statues are too one-sided a memorial.

I don't want to tear down the Washington Monument or the Jefferson Memorial, but those need some added context, too. Whitewashing our country's original sins is not the way to raise a responsible, educated, grown-up citizenry that can grapple with the stubborn problems we yet face centuries later. The spackling-over of those odious warts out of blind patriotism, pride of ancestry, or caving to white supremacists who'd like to rewrite Civil War history are among the reasons we are still struggling.

Respect the notion that humans can contemplate two ideas at once, can understand that people of momentous intellect, skills, bravery, vision and leadership could still embody now-abominable flaws common in their day. Acknowledging uncomfortable truths, theirs and ours, is essential for human minds and society to keep progressing.

I don't want to unperson the heroically intrepid, world-changing Columbus, but I don't think the story I learned about him in grammar school should keep its glossy varnish today, either. I prefer to think Americans can still handle the truth, and want to raise their kids to be idealistic yet honest, tough-minded and clear-eyed, too.

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There was really only one, and that was less the result of heroically intrepid, and more due to stubborn stupidity. The diameter of the planet was a known quantity long before he set sail, but he picked a much smaller number for some reason, and insisted that it was the right one long after he finished ruining those friendly natives' world. We can recognize the impact he had on history, but we shouldn't glorify it.

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He was a bit stubborn, perhaps thick-headed, in preferring his idea of the planetary diameter, and he was an atrocious colonial administrator. His moral imagination was small compared to that of someone like Bartolomé de las Casas (thought to call him a genocidal madman is puerile). He was, however, a very good mariner, and a truly intrepid explorer, who was thoroughly possessed by the spirit of adventure, and whose somewhat foolish gamble paid off beyond all imagining. No single deliberate action has changed human history so profoundly as his first voyage. This is not a moral judgement - certainly the outcome, which he did not foresee, was catastrophic for millions. The story of that first crossing is as significant as that of the wanderings of Odysseus, also not an entirely admirable character. We see it a little differently, though, because it is true.

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If the residents of the area want the statue removed, so be it. But criminal vandalism should not be the catalyst for a discussion on whether the statue stays or goes.

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in North America.

This is such a dumb cause for the cosplaying denizens of the north end who desperately cling to the old country and the rat pack.

Most of that age group will be gone soon. Then we can toss Chris, honor an Italian who has at least some history with our city (not to mention our continent) and pave those Bocce courts for a desperately needed bank.

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You're right, it is ridiculous, why pay attention to this particular want, while all the others are ignored?

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But criminal vandalism should not be the catalyst...

We wouldn't have America then.

BUT most educated people wouldn't call destroying a statue of a fascist "vandalism".

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when you finally figure out why there's a couple of boats anchored in the Fort Point Channel.

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I happen to know the group who stole the head off the Christopher Columbus statue back in 2006. They were a bunch of guys who worked at the Joe’s across the street. The beheading had far more to do with their being over-served at the Sail Loft than the Admiral of the Ocean Sea’s treatment of indigenous peoples.

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I shared this article a few months ago, but I think it bears reposting, since it puts the whole Columbus phenomenon in context.

https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/the-invention-of-christopher-c...

In essence, Italian immigrants didn’t carry the cult of Columbus over with them. They arrived to find a longstanding mythology in place, which they adopted to demonstrate their Americanness. In many cases, immigrants had absolutely no idea of Columbus until they came here. For example, the only Italian enshrined in my immigrant great-grandfather’s house in East Cambridge was Garibaldi (whose lithograph joined those of Washington & Lincoln for his secular holy trinity). In keeping with this heritage, “The Hero of Two Worlds” (a sobriquet G. shares with Lafayette) would be my candidate for a statue.

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but I'd take either.

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You don't think all that Leif Ericson visited Newton crap well before Columbus wasn't done to counter the fact that an Italian in service of a Spaniard King and Queen made it to the Bahamas before anyone of Northern European descent wasn't a factor?

The mythology behind Norumbega went as far as the statue of Ericson on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall and the Viking prows on the Longfellow Bridge.

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...but now all I can hear is Spongebob "HAPPY LEIF ERICSON DAYYYYYY" #carryon

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exploits, but not how his legend was built in the States from the colonial era. Similarly interesting that he means nearly nothing to Italians in Italy. (I also never knew that John Cabot was actually an Italian named Giovanni Caboto.)

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but there's a great scene from the Sopranos where the guys are all out in front of Satriale's and somehow end up talking about Columbus and singing his praises.

The only REAL Italian in the bunch, Fiore, spits on the ground when they mention him and remarks how they hate him back home.

I've said it before but my Italian American heritage has become a silly caricature of itself. And I find it unfortunate that so many people like me who still have friends and family in the old country have absolutely no idea just how rediculous they appear.

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that Columbus Day is the national holiday of Spain? Not much celebrated, it's true, but it's there on the books. Presumably it is on the grounds that it was on that day that Spain (which wasn't even yet a nation) became an Empire.

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mostly for work, but never knew about this.

On further review, Columbus is also celebrated with national holidays like Día de las Américas in Uruguay and Belize, Día de la Raza in Mexico, Chile and Colombia (Day of "The Race", meaning Western Hemisphere peoples with ancestors who were Spanish colonizers that intermarried with local natives -- self-styled as Creoles in the US, though that can refer to other Western European forebears, like the French in Louisiana), and Discovery Day in the Bahamas.

Looks like we're not the only country with some complicated historical reckoning ahead.

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my sixth-grade social studies teacher of Portuguese descent, spent several lessons recapping the work of Edmund Delabarre, a historian who asserted that a Portuguese explorer named Miguel Corte-Real had landed in Massachusetts in 1511, well before the English, based on an alleged Latin inscription he supposedly scratched into the town of Berkley's Dighton Rock. (That's a local tourist attraction only slightly less deathly-dull than Plymouth Rock. At least it's bigger, and you could climb on it.)

His crowing premise to a class two-thirds full of Portuguese surnames, mostly third-generation Azorean-Americans, was basically, "The Portuguese were the real 'discoverers' of New England, not the Brits, and now you know the truth."

By the time we got this weird alternate history -- which even at the tender age of 11 set off my bullshit detector -- Delabarre's thinly-evidenced theory had already been debunked by Samuel Eliot Morison, a far more storied scholar. Per Morison, Corte-Real couldn't have gotten within sight of MA in 1511, as his ship had sunk years earlier off the coast of Newfoundland, chasing after his explorer brother who'd met a similar deadly fate before him.

Mr. Silva was a solid, nice-guy teacher, memorably passionate about Colonial history, but he clearly went of the rails trying to win one for the Lusophones there.

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Say goodnight to the bad guy.

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