Mexico City to Replace Statue of Christopher Columbus with Sculpture of Pre-Hispanic Woman | Mexico

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A replica of a mysterious pre-Hispanic sculpture of an indigenous woman has been chosen to replace a statue of Christopher Columbus on Mexico City’s most important boulevard.

The statue was discovered in January in the Huasteca area, near the Gulf of Mexico coast. She is known as the Young Woman of Amajac, after the village where she was found buried in a field. But no one really knows who the stone sculpture was supposed to represent.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History said at the time that the statue was similar to representations of a fertility goddess in Huastec culture. But archaeologists at the institute also said she may be part of the elite or ruling class.

The replica will be up to three times the size of the 6-foot (2-meter) original, which is on display at the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. The city authorities decided that the statue of Christopher Columbus should be moved to a less important site and should be replaced by an indigenous woman because she had been under-represented.

Amajac’s young wife. Photography: AP

The aesthetics of the replica will be a radical change from the statue of Columbus. Amajac’s young wife is pre-Hispanic in style with an open look as the colored stones that were probably originally inserted into her sockets have been lost.

Although there were other sculptures of Indigenous people on the city’s Reforma Boulevard, they were generally done in a neoclassical style that matched the ornate base of the ancient statue of Columbus, urns, and the like. boulevard sculptures.

The Young Woman of Amajac will be placed at the top of the original neoclassical plinth.

The statue of Christopher Columbus was removed last year, supposedly for restoration, shortly before October 12, what Americans know as Columbus Day but Mexicans call Día de la Raza, or Day of the Race – the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas in 1492. Protesters frequently targeted the statue of Columbus for graffiti protesting the brutal treatment of Indigenous peoples.

The plans to replace the statue of Christopher Columbus have sparked controversy among critics from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Claudia Sheinbaum, mayor of Mexico City, who saw it as an attempt to rewrite Spain out of the country’s history. and diminish the Spanish role in the founding and culture of Mexico. .

“The idea that Mexico is the product of a combination of Spanish culture and indigenous culture among young historians is coming to an end,” said Ilán Semo, historian at the Ibero-American University. History being written, Semo said, “sees the Spaniards as the origin of racism [in Mexico]”.

The controversy over the statue of Christopher Columbus came as the country marked the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) to the Spanish.

Sheinbaum has spoken often this year of “500 years of indigenous resistance” and proposed replacing Columbus with the image of an indigenous woman.

But interpretations of a proposed replacement statue sparked widespread derision: Artist Pedro Reyes said the sculpture was inspired by Olmec statuary, but the work was described as resembling a sci-fi alien. .

Sheinbaum canceled the sculpture and tasked the city’s Monuments and Works of Art committee to choose an alternative. She described replacing Columbus as the “decolonization of Paseo de la Reforma”, the most emblematic boulevard of the capital.

On Tuesday, the director of the anthropology institute, Diego Prieto Hernández, admitted that the persistent threats against the statue of Christopher Columbus were the reason for the decision to move it to a quieter park in an upscale neighborhood where protests are rare.

“This was based, not on an ideological judgment of the [Columbus] character, but rather because of a need to retain the sculptural group, which, had it been left in place, would have been the target of threats and protests, ”said Prieto Hernández.

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