monument to indigenous women to replace Christopher Columbus statue in Mexico City | Smart News

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In October 2020, authorities in Mexico City installed metal fences (pictured here) to protect a statue of Christopher Columbus from protesters. Officials then removed the sculpture, apparently for restoration.
Photo by Guillermo Gutiérrez / NurPhoto via Getty Images

A pedestal in central Mexico City that once housed a statue of Christopher Columbus has been empty since last October. Now reports Johnny Diaz for the New York Times, a sculpture of an indigenous woman is expected to replace the likeness of the controversial explorer.

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum announced plans for the new statue last Sunday, on the occasion of the Day of the Indigenous Woman in Mexico.

Designed by Mexican sculptor Pedro Reyes, the soon-to-be-installed statue is titled Tlalli—the Nahuatl word for water. It represents a woman of the Olmec civilization, who inhabited present-day Mexico between around 1400 and 400 BCE, as Taylor Dafoe writes for Artnet news. The first great civilization of Mexico, the Olmecs are best known today for their massive sculptures of human heads.

“It is very important to dedicate a monument to indigenous women and to the earth, because if anyone can teach us to take care of this planet, it is our indigenous peoples and that is precisely what we have to relearn”, said Reyes said in Mexico. newspaper the universal, by a translation of Artnet news. “We all come from the earth and we all go back to it, and it is the earth that should be on our minds – and not just in the past.”

Last October, city officials removed the 19th-century statue of Christopher Columbus from its pedestal in Paseo de la Reforma, a main street that runs through the heart of Mexico City. Although officials said the artwork was taken down for restoration, some viewers suspected the decision was made in anticipation of protests against Raza Day, as Columbus Day is known in Spanish speaking countries. Protesters regularly disfigured the sculpture with spray paint during protests, the Associated Press (AP) reported at the time.

Sculpted by French artist Charles Cordier in 1877, the bronze statue represents the Italian explorer Columbus as a conqueror. He is standing with one hand raised and the other lifting a veil from a globe.

The gesture of Columbus refers to an outdated history that makes the explorer the “discoverer” of the Americas. In truth, Columbus ventured to the Caribbean in 1492 and met the Taíno people, one of the many civilizations that had lived in North America for tens of thousands of years. The explorer enslaved and killed thousands of native people; his actions paved the way for European colonization of the Americas and the transatlantic slave trade.

Monument to Indigenous women to replace Christopher Columbus statue in Mexico City

A 1909 photograph of the statue of Christopher Columbus

Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

For now, reports the Times, the statue of Christopher Columbus will be moved to Parque América, in the affluent district of Polanco in Mexico City.

Last year, as protests against racial injustice swept the world, protesters toppled statues of Christopher Columbus around the world in symbolic acts of resistance against racism and colonialism. Activists also targeted statues of slavers and Confederate monuments.

At last week’s press conference, Sheinbaum said a statue honoring the indigenous heritage of Mexicans was long overdue.

“We will place a statue dedicated to the indigenous woman,” she added, according to the Times. “We owe it to them. We exist because of them. It is the story of our country and our homeland.

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