Columbus Sailing Association fights to preserve replica of Nina

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Photo Credit: Mel Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

Hurricane Harvey blew through Southeast Texas in late August, leaving the coastal region damaged and citizens without power. As Texans begin the long road to recovery, one husband-and-wife duo are fighting to preserve a replica of one of Columbus’s ships, which sunk to the bottom of the Corpus Christi Marina during the disaster.

The replicas, built in 1992 by the Spanish, celebrated the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World, and sailed around the world, visiting various cities before ultimately landing in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Because the ships were so popular with tourists, Corpus Christi requested the ships permanently dock in the marina once they finish their tour around
North America.

“When the ships visited, there were so many visitors that the city put a foundation together to secure the ships,” said Kim Mrazek, president of the Columbus Sailing Association. “Kids wrote letters to the King of Spain asking him to let us keep the ships.”

It has been over 20 years since Corpus Christi was granted guardianship of the replicas, during which time two of the three were moved to museums, where they were destroyed by dry rot. As of late August, only the Nina had survived — that is, until Harvey struck.

The ship suffered severe damage to its main deck and bottom, to name some of the many repairs needed on the ship’s body. In the wake of the storm, the Columbus Sailing Association launched a GoFundMe campaign in hopes of raising money to repair the ship.

“We have raised about $24,000 since the hurricane,” Kim Mrazek said. “While that’s awesome, we still need more.”

Kim Mrazek, a retired grade school orchestra teacher and alumna of the Corpus Christi Symphony, was tapped to become the Columbus Sailing Association’s president in April of 2014.

“The first time I stepped on that ship, it was like a time warp, just incredible,” Kim Mrazek said. “I have never had anything take me back 600 years; it
is indescribable.”

Ron Mrazek, Kim’s husband and vice president of the association, supports his wife’s passion and has dedicated countless hours to maintaining and repairing the ship. Ron believes the purpose of the ship is to educate the public and that it should not be subject to criticism for Columbus’s actions.

“We want to teach people,” Ron Mrazek said. “If kids don’t learn about what it took to form this country, then we’re just lost.”

Financial and community support for preservation of this replica of the Nina has fallen in recent years, which Kim Mrazek suspects is a result of negative association of Christopher Columbus with marginalization of Native Americans.

In spite of the circulating belief that Columbus’s voyage led to Native Americans’ suffering, the Mrazeks believe the legacy of the voyage deserves to
be preserved.

“I don’t think the ships had anything to do with it,” Kim Mrazek said. “Columbus was a prophetic, visionary man of God. He was doing what he had to do at that time, and that was to explore.”