Vasco Nuñez de Balboa
Jesus Benayas, the president of Balboa Park's House of Spain, has lobbied the Balboa Park Committee for three years to sign off on a statue of the park's namesake, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa. But judging by the committee's prior hearing on the proposal, Benayas will have a hard time keeping the proposal alive.
On November 2, Benayas once again pitched the idea of a Balboa statue. According to a record from the meeting, Benayas said that many Latin countries still celebrate the explorer.
Proponents of the new statue include University of San Diego professor Iris Engstrand, who wrote that Balboa "had humanitarian concerns for indigenous people of Panama."
Opponents were unconvinced. They objected to any statue that honors "a history of greed, genocide, murder and rape of native people."
Others said a statue of Kumeyaay tribe members would be more appropriate.
Barry Edelstein, the art director at the Old Globe, wrote, "[A statue of Balboa] would be a reminder to native peoples and others of the dark and repressive legacy of colonialism. Those who perceive Balboa from more positive perspectives can be glad that he is already commemorated in the park's very name and the names of so many structures and places throughout our region."
Some committee members also raised concerns.
Micah Parzens, CEO of the Museum of Man, said, "Continuing to pursue a statue of Balboa knowing how upsetting and offensive it is to many evidences a commitment to division. It is unthinkable that the Committee would deem bringing a new lightning rod as an appropriate use of public parkland. We are better than that as a community."
Other boardmembers also said they would likely not support a statue.
The Balboa Park Committee will be placing the statue issue on a future agenda for a final vote in coming months.