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Controversy over new Reforma sculpture: The head of an Olmec woman will be designed by a man

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A sculpture of an Olmec woman will substitute the Christopher Columbus statue on the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. 

Named Tlali, which means Earth in Nahuatl, will be created by the sculptor Pedro Reyes. 

A small version of Tlali, the sculpture that will replace Christopher Colombus in Paseo Reforma, in Mexico City. Photo: Courtesy

Tlali will be approximately 9 and-a-half meters high. Although there is still no exact date of delivery, Reyes said that the possible inauguration of the sculpture could take place Feb. 21, the National Day of Indigenous Languages.

In response to criticism about why a male sculptor was chosen to create this work and not a woman, much less an indigenous woman, he pointed out that regardless of gender, there are few artists dedicated to sculpture in public spaces.

Render giving an approximation of what the new sculpture will look like. Photo: Courtesy

Pedro stressed that he has the experience to create a work of this scale, for which, he said, he conducted a thorough investigation of the sculptural representations in ancient Mexico. He added that the work is the result of a collective.

The sculpture is inspired by Olmec heads and it is said to be an allegory to the earth and its connection with original cultures. 

“It is the representation of a woman,” said Pedro, “but the concept is the care of the land that the original cultures have bequeathed to us.”

The project started as a proposal that 5,000 indigenous women brought to the Senate to replace the statue dedicated to the European navigator.

The sculpture of Christopher Colombus has already been removed. The new piece is not expected until Feb. 2022. Photo: Courtesy

Tlali will be made out of 150 blocks of volcanic stone collected from the slopes of Popocatepetl. The material will be worked with the traditional technique of direct stone carving in three workshops located in the indigenous neighborhoods of Iztapalapa and Coyoacan, as well as the municipality of Chimalhuacan, in the State of Mexico.

The removal of the statue of the famous explorer echoes similar moves by other city and state governments, including the removal of other effigies of Columbus himself, as well as controversial confederate civil war figures in the United States.

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

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