Red paint from vandalism in 2019 on the statue at Discovery Park in Chula Vista. Photo by Chris Stone

Chula Vista, the second-largest city in San Diego County, is a remarkably vibrant minority-dominant city as far as American cities go.

Its population of 270,000 is 59.8% Hispanic, 85% of whom are Mexican Americans. The median family income in 2019 was $81,727 and the poverty rate just 9.6% — half of California’s 18.2%.

By contrast, McCallen, Texas, with 143,000 people of which 84.8% are Hispanic had a median family income of just $46,804 with a whopping 23% in poverty — almost three times that of Chula Vista.

Chula Vista’s city council voted 4-1 recently to ban forever a statue in a city park of Spanish-sponsored Italian explorer Christopher Columbus who sailed to the Americas in 1492.

It had been taken down during last year’s nationwide demonstrations that occurred after George Floyd was killed in  Minneapolis. It had been vandalized several times.

The 4-1 vote was supported by numerous people from the surrounding community, including many Kumeyaay Indians from the Sycuan, Viejas, Pala and San Pascual bands. Mary Salas, Chula Vista’s mayor and of Mexican American background, also called for the statue’s removal.

But I don’t believe the Chula Vista City Council should have removed the statue. Let me explain.

I was born in Mexico City to a mother from San Diego and a Mexican father. I was born a dual citizen. More pertinent, however, are the results of a DNA test I took recently.

It turns out I have roughly equal American Indian and European ancestry. My DNA indicates 48.9% American Indian ancestry with 49.8% European ancestry (a mixture of German, Italian, British, French, Greek and, of course, Spanish).

My objection to removing the statue is not because I’m a torch-carrying white supremacist or a worshipper of Confederate war criminals like Nathan Bedford Forest.

It is because I believe that Italian-born Christopher Columbus and his sponsors Ferdinand and Isabella of Castille, Spain, are three of the most important people in world history.

Yes, Columbus and his sponsors committed many ethical and political sins, minor and major, in our 21st Century understanding. 

Suffering immediately after Columbus landed in the Americas were the Caribbean Indians. Shortly thereafter, Hernando Cortez and his 200 roguish adventurers landed in Mexico and, with allied Mexican Indians, defeated the mighty Aztec Empire.

If not for English jealousy and petty distaste of the Spanish, would any Englishmen have ever crossed the Atlantic to colonize America? The English came because of the new world paradigm that Columbus and Cortez triggered with their discoveries, conquests and gold.

Name the English version of Columbus, if you can.

Columbus and Cortez made Spain a major European player for three centuries. Spain brought European culture to the Americas where Spanish-born people dominated almost the entire Western Hemisphere and still do through descendants of the “Peninsulares,” the pure-white Spaniards.

Spain’s decline came about simultaneously as it was chased out of Mexico and South America and conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte. Today, Spain is like most of Europe — a nice place to visit but not a major country.

Nevertheless, where would the United States be without Columbus, Cortez and the horses and gunpowder they conquered the new world with?

Who would have defeated the Nazis, Japanese Imperialists and Soviet Communists during my lifetime? 

As noted, almost half of my DNA is the same as the Sioux, the Kumeyaay, the Comanche, the Tzotzil Maya of Mexico and the other 70 Indian-language groups that make up 30% of modern Mexico, the most Indian country in the Western Hemisphere.

We are what we are today because Columbus changed the history of the world with three little ships and Spanish sailors paid by a king and queen who envisioned a new Spanish-dominated world while most Indians were hunter-gatherers and the Aztecs were busy with human sacrifices.

Without Columbus and Cortez what would we be today?

Raoul Lowery Contreras is a Marine Corps veteran, political consultant and author of the new book White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPS) & Mexicans. His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.

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