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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

After more than 2 months, why are Mérida’s most iconic monuments still covered in graffiti?

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Despite the fact that several of Mérida’s most iconic monuments were covered in graffiti over two months ago, virtually nothing has been done to clean them up. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Since the protests held on International Women’s Day back in early March, several of Mérida’s historic monuments remain covered in graffiti. 

One notable exception is the monument to the Montejo that bore the brunt of much of the protests, but has now been restored. 

Side-by-side comparison of what the Monument to the Montejo looked like on March 9, and then on May 23. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Locals and visitors alike in Mérida are wondering why other iconic monuments including the statue of Justo Sierra and the Monumento a la Patria have not received the same treatment. 

“Mérida is lovely, but all this graffiti is a bit of an eyesore, if I am being honest,” said Canadian tourist Margarethe Shull. 

Vandalized monument photographed May 23, 2022. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

To get to the bottom of this issue, we have been in touch with several government offices including Mérida’s public works office, the state government, and INAH. 

At least part of the problem seems to stem from the fact that these different agencies and branches and governments are passing the buck to each other ⁠— perhaps not wanting to spend the resources required to rehabilitate the monuments. 

According to the city government, care for the monuments on Paseo de Montejo falls outside their jurisdiction as they are considered historic monuments under the purview of INAH. 

“Historic monuments are the responsibility of INAH, so we are not able to intervene directly ourselves,” said Javier Espinoza of Mérida City Hall to Yucatán Magazine in a telephone interview. 

Earlier: Mérida’s monument to the Montejo, an icon of history or bigotry?

But this statement seems to be contradicted by the fact that vehicles and personnel emblazoned with City Hall emblems have been seen working on these monuments in the past. 

Workers apparently from Mérida’s City Hall began to remove placards, debris, and graffiti from the Monumento to the Montejo on May 22, 2022. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

When contacted, state representatives also argued that responsibility for the monuments falls squarely on INAH and refrained from giving any other details. 

As for INAH, the federal agency has chosen to not respond to several phone calls and voice mails inquiring about this issue. 

Issues regarding staffing and budget cuts at INAH have been well documented over the past couple of years. This is likely a contributing factor to the slow response when it comes to restoring defaced historic monuments on Paseo de Montejo and elsewhere in Mérida’s Centro. 

Budget cuts at INAH have been widely blamed for the federal agencies’ failure to reopen several of its archaeological sites and museums across Mexico. Image from the closed entrance to the museum in Tula Hidalgo. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

“INAH is responsible for the maintenance of several monuments in Mérida, but those that have been erected relatively recently, like the monument to the Montejo, do indeed fall under the responsibility of the municipality,” said a source working for INAH in Yucatán who preferred to remain anonymous. 

Several of Mexico City’s most iconic monuments were protected this year from protestors by barricades, including the Monumento to Benito Juarez on the Alameda.  Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine
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