It has been suggested that the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District stop using the logo of Christopher Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria, because of the contention he mistreated natives of the Americas.
The logo ought to continue in use for several reasons. To erase recognition of major historical figures unless they can be deemed morally spotless under today’s standards would demand impossible perfection from human beings, ignore the reality of our history, and shun the lessons and inspiration past explorers can provide.
That Columbus was a peerless navigator is undoubted. That his later tenure as governor of the West Indies was beset with problems seems evident, but how far he is culpable for what eventually happened to the natives is a matter of dispute. Columbus, who adopted a native child and reared him as his own son, is often blamed for what those who came after him did.
There can be no doubt about Columbus’s importance as a pioneer explorer. His discovery of Barbados and the West Indies in 1492 paved the way to European settlement of the Americas, including the eventual founding of our country. His four journeys for Spain to the West Indies led to establishment of the Hispanic culture that has played a key role in the history of our Central Coast area. To ignore Columbus is to deny the roots of who we are today.
Most important, the logo in question is not a likeness or image of Columbus; it is an image of a ship, the Santa Maria. It most accurately is regarded not as a symbol of Columbus’s entire life, but of his initial journey and discovery of the New World in 1492.
This is so because after the Santa Maria reached the West Indies, it ran aground on a reef on Christmas Eve 1492 and soon split apart. Columbus had to return to Spain aboard the Nina. The Santa Maria played no role in the three later journeys of Columbus to the West Indies when he became governor and controversies erupted.
The Santa Maria epitomizes a daring feat of courage and skill undertaken to realize Columbus’s dreams of winning riches from trading with Asia and also of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to foreign shores.
Using the Santa Maria ship logo recognizes and salutes the spirit of discovery: the determined resolve to go where no one has gone before, the courage to take huge risks to achieve vital goals. It is the same spirit that led to explorers reaching the South Pole, climbing Mount Everest, landing on the moon, and now aiming for Mars.
For a school district like ours near the soon-to-be-renamed Vandenberg Space Force Base, which will help explore our next frontier, this emblem of exploration and discovery is fully fitting and deserves to be retained.