A statue of Christopher Columbus that was removed last year from its position along Mexico City’s main thoroughfare won’t be returned to its former spot, city officials said.
Instead, it will be replaced by a statue of an Indigenous woman to recognize the contributions of Mexico’s native peoples, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said.
Sheinbaum, who made the announcement on Sunday, the Day of the Indigenous Woman, said the Italian colonizer’s legacy is seen through “two visions”: One that is Euro-Centric, and another that recognizes that civilizations existed in the Americas long before Columbus arrived.
“We owe it to them and we exist because of them,” Sheinbaum said of Mexico’s Indigenous peoples. “It is the history of our country and our homeland.”
The bronze Columbus statue was featured prominently on Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City’s main avenue since the late 19th century. In October 2020, officials removed the statue from its pedestal for a scheduled restoration — but they were considering the legacy of the man it remembered, city officials said, as Al Jazeera reported at the time.
Sheinbaum and Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador both indicated at the time that the Columbus statue was removed to prevent protesters from vandalizing it, according to Al Jazeera. The statue had previously been damaged in protests in 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas.
In place of Columbus Day, Mexico observes Dia de la Raza on October 12, a holiday that recognizes “the mixed Indigenous and European heritage of Mexico,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
To honor those pre-Columbus civilizations, sculptor Pedro Reyes will create a statue of an Olmec woman. The Olmec people are thought to be one of the first major civilizations of what would become Mexico.
“It’s very important to dedicate a monument to indigenous women and to the Earth, because if anyone can teach us how to take care of this planet, it’s our native peoples, and that is precisely what we must learn again,” Reyes said in a statement, according to Mexican newspaper El Universal.
The Columbus statue will be moved to Parque América, a park in Mexico City’s Polanco neighborhood, El Universal reported.