Vasco Nuñez de Balboa
  • Vasco Nuñez de Balboa
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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.

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Comments

dwbat Jan. 27, 2018 @ 2:03 p.m.

What a terrible idea. The Balboa Park Committee should not even put that on the agenda. What's next?--Putting a statue of Hernán Cortés on Cortez Hill downtown?

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Ponzi Jan. 27, 2018 @ 8:14 p.m.

Bad idea and a century or two too late. What guns and steel didn't kill the natives, germs like small pox did. We know what Spanish explorers did from reading history, and the history books is where these characters must remain, not idolized.

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dwbat Jan. 28, 2018 @ 9:14 a.m.

Smallpox itself is not a "germ." It's the disease caused by a virus.

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swell Jan. 28, 2018 @ 9:33 p.m.

"a history of greed, genocide, murder and rape of native people."

Yes, we like to think of these innocent people living in harmony with nature and living idyllic peaceful lives. But throughout the Americas there were vicious warlords fighting over prime territory and committing unspeakable acts on their conquered neighbors. Ordinary people lived in fear. By the time Balboa reached our shores he would have been well aware of this.

Around the world we have seen this behavior among tribal people … and among 'civilized' countries. Who are we to judge them as we continue to slaughter people in the middle east?

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Pmmbledsoe Feb. 18, 2018 @ 8:01 p.m.

The language used to describe Spain's role in the Americas as "a history of greed, genocide, murder and rape of native people" is inflammatory, derisive and even libelous used by a writer who has not studied the accounts of the Spanish presence in the Americas. It is precisely this language which is devisive and unworthy of any person speaking on the subject of a statue of Balboa in Balboa Park. Shameful! Mr Benayas deserves due process which is to make his case to the committee, answer any questions the committee might pose, and have a vote called. This is the way we conduct business in our great democracy, is it not?

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