The replacement of a figure seen as a monument to colonialism has struck a chord as the country debates how it is shaped by race and gender.
MEXICO CITY - Statues of Columbus are toppled across the Americas, amid fierce debates over the legacy of European conquest and colonialism .
Few things have been more controversial than the replacement of a monument in the heart of Mexico's capital, Firstt some of the most intense conflicts in the country today, including not only race and history, but a gender lso.
After debate extended, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum announced on Tuesday that the statue of Columbus that once looked down on Mexico City's main boulevard will be replaced by a pre-colonial statue Indigenous figure - notably, a woman.
Announced ahead of Ms. Sheinbaum's candidacy for president in 2024, the new statue is widely seen as an attempt by the mayor, who is the first woman elected to head North America's largest city, to a - or exploit - the cultural tensions that plague the country, including the growing resistance of women to a male-dominated culture. Image The stakills Columbus in June 2020, right, and the empty pedestal in October. Credit .. . Gustavo Graf Maldonado / Reuters
The new statue "represents the fight women, especially indigenous people, in the history of Mexico, "she said at a press conference announcing the decision on the anniversary of Christophe's first arrival. Columbus in the Americas. "It 'sa story of classism, of racism that comes from the colony.
The President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador , went further than its predecessors' history of colonialism, celebrating indigenous culture and presenting itself as the defender of the poor against the country's conservative opposition and the predominantly European-born elite.
He has held elaborate commemorations this year to mark 500 years since the fall of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, located in present-day Mexico City, to the Spanish invaders. He has traveled the country in recent months to apologize to indigenous communities for the colonial atrocities, and demanded a similar atonement from the Spanish government.
But Mr. Lopez Obrador has shown much less sensitivity to the growing feminist movement in Mexico.
In recent years, Mexican women have taken to the streets more and more to demand government action against one of the highest rates of domestic violence. At least 10 women and girls have been murdered in Mexico on average every day last year, according to official government figures, and most crimes go unpunished. Image The statue of Columbus was cleaned last year , before being removed. Credit ... Pedro Pardo / Agence France-Presse - Images
Earlier this year, thousands of women demonstrated in Mexico City , attacking the ramparts outside the presidential residence with bats and torches. Feminist protesters also attacked colonial statues, seeing them as symbols of Mexican male hegemony.
M r. Lopez Obrador played down the protests, going so far as to call them an opposition ploy to destabilize his government. Last month he claimed that the feminist movement in Mexico was not established until afterupon taking office in 2018.
"They had become conservative feminists only to affect us, only for that purpose " he declared, applying to feminists a word he often uses to mock his political opponents.
His derogatory remarks presented a political challenge to his protege and possible successor, Ms Sheinbaum, who has attempted to position herself as the leader of a more progressive and younger wing of the left-wing presidential party Morena.
She has also drawn criticism from feminist organizations by condemning the violent attacks on public buildings in 2019.
"Violence is not combated by violence violence, "she said at the time.
The bronze statue of Columbus, erected in 1877 atop a pedestal in an island ofhe traffic, had been disfigured by protesters in the past, officials pulled it out last year, amid threats of further damage. Image The pedestal was empty last month. Credit ... Hector Vivas / Images
In its place will be a replica of a stone sculpture named "the young woman of Amajac", which was discovered in January in the eastern state of Veracruz and dates to around the time of Christopher Columbus' travels, over 550 years ago. The new figurine will stand about 20 feet tall, three times the height of the original, now housed in the National Archaeological Museum in Mexico City.
Thechoosing a female statue to replace Columbus might appeal to feminists, while supporting Mr. Lopez Obrador, said Valeria Moy, director of the Center of Public Policy Research, a Mexican think tank.
"She tries to please everyone, especially its president, "said Ms. Moy. " From a political point of view, the choice of the statue seems like a good decision. "
" They focus on the statue, without focusing on the rights of living women, ”said Fatima Gamboa, an activist with the Indigenous Advocate Network, a Mexican advocacy group.
Ms. Gamboa , a member of the indigenous Mayan people, said a gesture celebrating Mexico's indigenous heritage does not improve the precarious socio-economic conditions and discrimination sufferedthere are still many indigenous women.
Former conservative president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, has declared the monument to Columbus a valuable part of the artistic heritage and history of Mexico, and did not agree with its substitution.
"To remove it, to mutilate it, is a crime" he wrote on Twitter last month when the government in Mexico City first announced the need to replace it with an indigenous symbol. "They are stealing it from Mexico City, its people and all Mexicans.