City government challenged over Christopher Columbus statue decision

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An empty plinth on Reforma Avenue in Mexico City, which once housed a statue of Christopher Columbus, continues to spark controversy. In the artistic community, the debate is not about what should stand on the plinth, but who should have the right to create it.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum announced on Sunday that a sculpture of an indigenous Olmec woman would stand and that the Christopher Columbus sculpture – removed in October amid threats that it would be toppled – would be moved to Parque América, a park in the well-to-do district of Polanco.

Writer Guillermo Sheridan and Twitter users argued that the choice of the new statue should be decided by public vote, but it was the city government’s choice of sculptor that sparked the most intense debate. Pedro Reyes was selected to create a figure he said would be called Tlalli.

Artist collective Moccam said he was not the right fit. “The tribute to the 500 years of resistance of indigenous women must be created by a woman, identified as part of an original people and sculptor. Enough of neocolonialism, ”he said.

The chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cuauhtémoc Medina, questioned the process. “For decades artists, historians and critics have expressed our disagreement with arbitrariness in the way elected authorities… perpetuate the idea of ​​the artist as an ideological servant,” he said.

“I am very sorry that an artist of some importance, like Pedro Reyes, fell into the trap of functioning as an official sculptor,” he added.

Sheinbaum explained his reasoning for the new symbolic Olmec effigy, but did not address the choice of sculptor. “The most important thing is that indigenous women are recognized on the main avenue of the capital of all Mexicans. It’s something extremely deep, it goes way beyond a single sculpture. It recognizes the place of classism and racism in the history of Mexico and how colonialism left not only different legacies, but those that we must put at the center: the discrimination that exists towards different cultures and in particular the non-recognition. only original peoples but women, ”she said.

She added that Columbus would not be banned from the city. “It’s not about [the Columbus statue] does not exist in the city, but has an adequate and dignified location.

Reyes, meanwhile, said he appreciates the weight of his duty. our indigenous peoples, ”he said.

With reports from El Economista

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