Are we preserving history or honouring hate?

A pedestal is no place for a Confederate symbol, and taking them down won’t erase the past

An increasing number of symbols commemorating Confederate “heroes” have been taken down throughout the United States and Canada, including here in Montreal. A plaque hanging on a wall outside the Hudson’s Bay department store on Ste-Catherine Street honouring Jefferson Davis was taken down on Aug. 15. Davis was the president of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865, and he briefly lived in Montreal with his family after being released from prison in 1867.

The recent violent protest in Charlottesville, Va., encouraged even more people and organizations to remove plaques, statues and monuments that pay homage to important actors of the Confederacy. On Aug. 12, white supremacists and neo-Nazis rallied in Charlottesville to condemn a proposal to remove a statue of Confederate commander Robert E. Lee. A woman was struck and killed by a car that drove through the crowd of anti-racism counter-protesters who had turned up at the rally.

Though tensions around Confederate symbols aren’t a new phenomenon, some argue that taking down such signs threaten the preservation of history. For hundreds of years, the KKK and other white supremacist groups have used various symbols as emblems of their far-right ideologies. The Confederate flag is especially controversial because it has become a symbol of oppression and hatred of black people and other non-whites. Waving the flag is often interpreted as blatant racism in North America.

Though some argue Confederate symbols represent pride in the southern United States, they inarguably carry a heavy burden. For many, the Confederate flag is a reminder of black men, women and children being dragged off public transportation, beaten to death, locked up on unfounded rumours and assumptions and killed for defending basic civil rights.

Statues, plaques and monuments are intended to honour people who have positively contributed to society’s growth and freedom. Davis, for his part, owned hundreds of slaves and led a movement that fought against their emancipation. So, if public officials want to lessen racial tensions and reconcile with citizens of different cultures and races, they must not tolerate public displays that glorify the very people who went to war to maintain slavery and other oppressive systems.

Those who fear history will be erased by removing Confederate emblems shouldn’t worry.

Many have tried to suppress dark parts of North American history, yet they endure. Davis and his Confederate friends will always be part of our history, but they have no place on pedestals. No one has forgotten about Hitler, right? Yet, even naming a garbage dump “Adolf Hitler” was deemed scandalous and inappropriate by Oregonians in the 80s.

Closer to home, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario recently announced that they want to remove John A. Macdonald’s name from their school buildings so that Indigenous children won’t have to attend schools named after an individual who played a key role in developing residential schools and destroying Indigenous culture.

Taking down honourific plaques, statues and flags simply shows solidarity and inclusion towards ethnic groups who have been chronically oppressed and discriminated against throughout history. The goal is not to erase our past, but to reclaim a history which has been “whitewashed” for far too many years. History books are filled with one-sided stories of white heroes protecting their people from evil “savages.”

Cruelty and injustice have been excused for centuries. If dozens of government buildings and plaques have to be renamed and removed to begin righting those wrongs, then so be it.

Graphics by Alexa Hawksworth

Student Life

La Habanera: A place transporting Tabarnacos to Cuba

Trendy Cuban restaurant is serving mucho mojitos and impressive dishes

Quebecers love Cuba. It is a known fact. According to the Toronto Star, 1.2 million Canadians travel to Cuba, annually.  The link between our province and the beloved communist state is so prominent that Cubans affectionately call us “Tabarnacos” and “Jean Coutus.”

That connection is what the staff at La Habanera restaurant wanted to bring to Montreal. “We wanted to create a nice vibe from Cuba,” manager Louis-Philippe Rouleau told The Concordian.  Rouleau said the idea was to create “something that you couldn’t get in Montreal.”

Photo by Shakti Langlois Ortega

La Habanera is unique. Inspired by the vibrant colours of Cuban culture, the restaurant’s DIY-style décor is probably the most charming aspect of the downtown restaurant. Its vintage look recreates the antique charm of Old Havana. About 30 tables occupy the small space, and along the back wall sits a  turquoise banquette. Dozens of strategically scattered picture frames filled with vintage Cuban portraits, maps and photos cover the walls, giving the space a relaxed feel. Some may even consider it the perfect Instagram-worthy backdrop to any photo.

Walking into La Habanera feels like stepping into a closet-sized version of Cuba. If you are up to it, you can even test your Spanish skills with the staff, since most of them speak it fluently.

No Cuban-inspired restaurant would be complete without a salsa playlist and this place offers one that will have you dancing in your seat. If you dare, get up between bites and show off your dance moves.

Although delicious and beautifully prepared, the food served at La Habanera is nothing like the typical food found in traditional Cuban households. On the menu, you will find a variety of creative and tasteful small, tapas-style plates inspired by authentic Cuban ingredients, such as plantain and seafood. The restaurant basically takes traditional ingredients to make non-traditional or gourmet dishes.

Plantain cups filled with rum, coconut, and garlic dulce de leche shrimps. Photo by Shakti Langlois Ortega

One of the restaurant’s signature dishes, rum, coconut and garlic dulce de leche shrimps served in plantain cups, is a perfect example of that.

To recreate the open and heart-warming Cuban atmosphere and experience, La Habanera encourages clients to order several plates to share. The spot also offers a special tasting menu for groups, which is a surprise menu picked and designed by the chefs.

You can seat yourself either at the beautiful turquoise banquette, in one of the cozy diner-style booths or at the bar, while a bartender concocts one of the spot’s exotic house cocktails, like the Bloody Maria Con Lychee. The drink translates to a cherry tomato and lychee Bloody Mary.

With more than 20 different types of rum, the Cuban liquor of choice, La Habanera offers an exclusive selection of mouth-watering mojitos made with fresh fruits and herbs.

Designed for millennials, with its trendy yet unpretentious vibe, La Habanera can be your go-to spot for anything from a promising Tinder date to an unforgettable birthday dinner.

La Habanera is the latest restaurant from a team of people who are also behind Montreal’s Mexican restaurants La Cerveceria and Escondite, and the Japanese fusion spot, Biiru. The team will also opening a Hawaiian poke takeout restaurant soon.

La Habanera is located at 1216 Avenue Union, Montréal, QC H3B 3C4.

The spot is open Tuesday to Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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