Toppling Statues

Statue of Vicente Mesquita as it originally stood in Macau
The statue of Vicente Mesquita as it stood in Macau until it was attacked and torn down by a rioting mob in 1966

Across the U.S., statues of Confederate generals and of those considered to be racists are being attacked, torn down or removed. In the U.K. too, in the city of Bristol an angry mob toppled the statue of slave trader Edward Colston and dumped it into the harbor. When symbols are smashed or defaced in frustration, it can be a harbinger of change to come.

Why does it scare the crap out of the people refusing to accept a new reality―to face their flawed sense of privilege? Because it’s often a precursor for regime change. Sure, we have seen plenty of examples of statue destruction after the fact, such as was the case of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s statue after the U.S. invasion, or of Cecil Rhodes in Zimbabwe after the African was granted independence by Britain in 1980. When statues are attacked, damage is often directed at the parts that would most hurt a human being―not only venting anger at the idea represented by it, but also a humiliation of the person as well; heads cut off, eyes gouged out, ears torn off, revenge meted out on the person as a symbol of tyranny.

54 years ago in Macau, on December 3rd of 1966, a statue of war hero Vicente Mesquita was toppled by rioters. It came after several months of turmoil in Macau. Protests by mainly Communist organizations came to a head on that December day. The Macau government responded by mobilizing army troops to suppress the demonstrators and riots that followed. It resulted in the deaths of 11 Chinese shot dead and 100 others injured. Macau’s leftist organizations rallied merchants to close their shops; China’s border checkpoints were closed, food and water supplies were cut. Macau was under siege and had no option but to kowtow to the leftists. From that day onward, until its reversion to China in 1999, Macau remained under China’s de facto control. The return Portugal’s last colony Macau to China, ended 442 years of Portuguese rule over the enclave.

The statue’s pedestal after the attack

Mesquita is best remembered as the man who helped bring China to its knees when he led a small force of Portuguese soldiers to attack and defeat a fort at Baishaling, China in 1849. However, for a long while, until it suited politicians to resurrect Mesquita as a hero of the Portuguese Empire, his memory was scorned. After his death in 1880, the governor denied his remains a military burial. The bishop forbade interment of his body in Macau’s consecrated ground. Nevertheless, at the start of the Second World War, he was resurrected. Portugal badly needed heroes. As a neutral state, the regime had grown wealthy by selling mineral resources to both ally and axis. It could well afford the erection of a few statues to bolster its image as a colonial power.                                            

The Communists that attacked the statue resented it as a constant reminder of China’s national disgrace―one that began with outsiders camping on the empire’s periphery before eventually infiltrating its very heart and gnashing off chunks.

Anyone wishing to learn more about Vicente Mesquita can do so through my book ‘Mesquita’s Reflections’.

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July 1, 2020 · 6:03 am

JINCAN – places

San Francisco

The story of JINCAN begins in southern China (Macau), introducing Shen and his quest for the perfect poison to carry out a final mission. Shen sails across the Pacific to San Francisco, with the hope of escaping his past. It is in San Francisco that Shen and Greystone meet.

In some of the places that Shen and Greystone travel to or through, San Francisco, Panama and the Sierra Nevada mountains, I have written a description of the place as seen through the eyes of early explorers or indigenous people. In this post and ones to follow, I am giving you a taste of how I have introduced each new location, starting with San Francisco.

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Filed under Observations: Writing, History, Travel and Culture

Pedro José Lobo

A man’s love for Macau

Pedro J. Lobo 1892-1965

A biography of P. J. Lobo, the businessman and philanthropist who also served as Macau’s Director of Economic Services is being written by his grandson, Marco Lobo.

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Filed under Observations: Writing, Observations: Writing, History, Travel and Culture

New biography Pedro José Lobo

… Everyday Is Mine – The Life Of Pedro José Lobo

The title of this book about the story of Pedro José Lobo’s life, born in East Timor in 1892, is the last line of a short poem by Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa.

Sent to Macau for schooling in 1901, Pedro José Lobo began his work life as a mathematics teacher and then a bank employee, rising to the position of chief of Macau’s economics department from where he guided Macau through some of its most difficult times such as the virtual Japanese occupation during the World War II, the refugee situation and the Border Gate Incident that took place in 1952. He knew that Macau’s survival meant that it had to stay independent and be useful to all parties as an independent entity.

Readers of this book will have a better understanding of Macau as seen through the eyes of those who lived through some of its most important moments.

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March 19, 2020 · 7:14 am

The Sierra Nevada

In JINCAN, Angus Greystone and his partner Shen team up and go in search for an assassin. Their quest takes them to the Sierra Nevada. Here is a passage from the book about the birth of the mountain range as well as a native creation myth.

TEN MILLION YEARS AGO, a massive block of the earth’s crust ripped through the surface as it tilted to the west. Rivers cut deep ravines on both sides of the new mountain range. Lava boiled up and then flowed down into canyons which over millennia, eroded to leave high plains along the ancient river channels. Still, the gods were not done sculpting. Glaciers carved out crescent-shaped gorges throughout the range. Working hand in hand, river and glacier exposed the uppermost portions of the plutons forming the Sierra’s crest. Long before Garcí Ordóñez de Montalvo dreamed of gilded Amazons, or the Franciscan missionary and chronicler Pedro Font, named the serrated peaks ‘Sierra Nevada’, the mountains were home to America’s native peoples.

It was many years later that I heard the story of the birth of the peaks explained in Yokut lore:

There was once a time in the world when nothing existed but water. At the place where Lake Tulare is now, a pole stood far out of the water. This pole provided a perch for Hawk and Crow. First, Hawk would rest on the pole for a while, then Crow would knock him off and sit on it. Thus, they took turns sitting on the pole above the water for a very long time. At last, they created the birds which prey on fish; Kingfisher, Eagle, Pelican, and others. They also created Duck. Duck was very small, but she dived to the bottom of the water, filled her beak with mud, and then died when trying to return from the depths. Duck floated on the water, lying dead. Then Hawk and Crow took the mud from Duck’s beak and began making the mountains. They began at the place now known as Ta-hi-cha-pa Pass, with Hawk building the eastern range and Crow forming the west one. They tamped the mud down hard into the water and piled it high, working toward the north. Finally, Hawk and Crow met at the place we call Mount Shasta. Their work was done, but when they looked at their mountains, Crow’s range was by far larger than Hawk’s. Hawk said to Crow, “How did this happen, you rascal? You have been stealing earth from my bill. That is why your mountains are biggest.” Crow laughed at Hawk. Then Hawk chewed some Indian tobacco and it made him wise. At once he took hold of the mountains and turned them around almost in a circle, putting his smaller range where Crow’s had been. And that is why the Sierra Nevada Range is larger than the Coastal Range.

    

If you enjoyed this post feel free to leave a comment.

My new book, JINCAN is available via Amazon and other booksellers.

JINCAN, The Shaman's Poison: Ancient China collides with Gold Rush America when two sleuths unite to hunt down a killer. (Graystone and Shen Novel Book 1) by [Lobo, Marco]

    

    

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February 26, 2020 · 1:58 am

JINCAN – places: PANAMA

Meeting of the Great Oceans

The story of JINCAN begins in southern China (Macau), introducing Shen and his quest for the perfect poison to carry out a final mission. While Shen sails across the Pacific to San Francisco, with the hope of escaping his past, Greystone attempts to arrive in California before him, taking a route that cuts across Panama.

In my previous post, I described San Francisco: https://lobomarco.com/2019/11/

Here, Greystone arrives in Panama.

A THUNDERBOLT HAD ME JUMPING OUT OF MY SOAKED SKIN. It was close enough to taste — metallic, acidic — and to feel its charge in my fillings. Even more horrifying, the light-burst exposed the ocean. Heaving beneath me, it was viscous and black, conjuring up the images of my darkest fears — tentacles as thick and long as the ship’s mast, curling up, studded with suckers, each ring armed with a beak ready to tear flesh.

     A few of us chose to brave the storm up on deck rather than to suffer in the airless hold. Clinging to a pole or rope while being lashed by icy rain was preferable to the misery belowdecks. Down there, men groaned with each roll of the ship, clutching their bellies, squirming in pools of vomit. From time to time one would claw his way up through the hatch. The denizens of the stinking hold would manage only a few shaky steps before again spilling their guts and scurrying back down to the stink. Shivering under my raincoat and hat, I hid from the storm as best I could, pressed into a corner. 

     At dawn, the downpour softened to a drizzle and with a calmer sea I began to feel safer from the retreating squall. Then, as if in defiance, the storm released a deep, slow rumble — nature telling me with a belch that it had its fill. Another roar shook me to the core before ebbing away.

Under a burst of light, purple welts lined the sky. Panama seemed to wink at me; a weary gesture from her bruised eyelid that said, “So, now you too.”

     Hers was a story of turmoil. Thrust off the seabed by its cataclysmic coupling she was smothered in layers of sludge. Driven ever upwards, she eventually broke surface. With first breaths she conjoined the landmasses to either side, cleaving the Earth’s ocean into two.

Coveted as a prize long before she was named, her slenderness was what made her so alluring. Separating Atlantic and Pacific oceans by a mere 50 miles at her narrowest point she so served as a bond between them. For centuries, conquistadores, mercantilists, and pirates fought to have her. Even my former homeland Scotland had tried its luck at setting up a colony on her Atlantic shore in order to establish an overland trade route. The 17th Century Darien Scheme failed miserably after only a few years, resulting in the destruction of the finances of the entire country.

              There were several versions as to the origin of the name ‘Panama’. A fellow passenger regaled us one evening saying,

Some ascribe it to the fact that a species of tree abounds there.  Others say that it is because the first settlers arrived in the month of August when butterflies are plentiful, and that the name means ‘many butterflies’ in native tongue. Perhaps the best known story is that a fishing village originally bore the name Panam , named after a nearby beach, and that the name meant ‘many fish’. Yet still another version says that a Kuna chief gave the land the name ‘pannaba’, the Kuna word meaning ‘very far’.

     Whether the name referred to trees, butterflies, a sandy shore or plentiful fish, I had indeed traveled very far, and still had farther to go.

     Panama had declared independence from Spain just thirty years earlier and was now part of Colombia. Given the recent interest in California, I wondered what designs America had on her. There was already talk of a railroad straddling her back to link the two great oceans.

     And so, yes, now me too, I thought in reply to a final burst of light from the receding storm.

If you enjoyed this post feel free to leave a comment.

My new book, JINCAN is available via Amazon and other booksellers.

JINCAN, The Shaman's Poison: Ancient China collides with Gold Rush America when two sleuths unite to hunt down a killer. (Graystone and Shen Novel Book 1) by [Lobo, Marco]

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December 6, 2019 · 6:16 am