Mérida’s Monumento a la Patria — a temple to unity, history, and belonging

El Monumento a la Patria is without a doubt one of Mérida’s most recognizable landmarks. Even visitors passing through the city for only a day, or even a few hours, likely stop by and visit this iconic monument. 

The Mexican flag flies proudly above Mérida’s most iconic monument, El Monumento a la Patria. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht. 

The Monumento a la Patria, or Monument to the Homeland, was crafted by the Mexican/Colombian sculptor Rómulo Rozo at the northmost point of Mérida’s iconic Paseo de Montejo. 

Bust of Rómulo Rozo on the northmost end of Paseo de Montejo, across the avenue from his greatest professional accomplishment. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht.

Construction of the monument began on March 7, 1945 and took more than 11 years to complete with the collaboration of architect Manuel Amábilis Domínguez and his son Max Amábilis.

On the south-facing end of the monument (usually considered the front) stands a large feminine figure with indigenous features complete with pre-Hispanic clothing and jewelry. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Carved out of stone by Rozo himself, the Monumento a la Patria depicts scenes from Mexican history including the declaration of independence, the revolution, and the battle for Puebla. 

Historical events and myths are depicted on Mérida’s Monumento a la Patria in equal measure, sometimes blurring the line between one and the other. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The monument also depicts Mexico’s active role in international affairs by recalling the country’s role in World War II.

A little known fact: In 1938, Mexico was the only country to protest the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria by Nazi Germany. This bold move was commemorated in 1956 by the christening of Mexikoplatz (Mexico Square) in Austria’s capital, Vienna. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

But as much as the Monumento a la Patria was designed to commemorate history, it was also crafted with the intention of making people in Yucatán feel more part of the republic, that is to say, more Mexican.

El Monumento a la Patria does not depict scenes of warfare between Europeans and the native Maya, choosing rather to present the fusion of these two cultures as an encounter set in motion by providence. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Though by 1945 nearly a century had passed since Yucatán had been reincorporated into the Mexican republic, the reality was that its great geographic isolation from the rest of the country meant that many Yucatecos felt more Yucatecan than they did Mexican. 

“I have erected in Mérida this great altar to embolden our nation’s spirit and to erase all notions of Yucatecan succession. This homeland is for us all,” said Rozo of El Monumento a la Patria. 

The Monumento a la Patria incorporates into its aesthetic several elements from pre-Hispanic art such as the Chac Mool. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht 

The theme of national unity is reinforced by placing the emblems of each state and territory of the country around a fountain meant to represent the lake of Texcoco, the legendary birthplace of Mexico.

The Monumento a la Patria’s rendering of lake Texcoco comes complete with a large representation of Mexico’s founding myth —  the struggle between good and evil personified by an eagle battling a snake atop a cactus. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Acting as a backdrop to the lake of Texcoco is a rendering of the sacred Mayan tree of life, the mighty Ceiba.

The ancient Yucatec-Maya believed the Ceiba tree to be sacred as it and its roots symbolized all 13 realms of the universe, with the land of the gods at the very top, the earth at ground level, and the deepest regions of the netherworld (Xibalba) at the bottom of its roots. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht 

The Monumento a la Patria also features images featuring illustrious Mexicans who made great contributions to the arts. 

To the left of the great Ceiba, it is possible to observe a scene featuring the image of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a Mexican writer, philosopher, composer, and poet of the Baroque period, as well as a Hieronymite nun. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Also making an appearance on the great monument are several images of animals including a variety of birds and animals associated with Maya mythology such as the jaguar. 

For the ancient Maya, the jaguar, or balam, was closely associated with the sun, but also with the night and consequently was thought to have the ability to cross between the realms of the living and the dead. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

It would perhaps not be unfair to characterize el Monumento a la Patria as propaganda, though the same could be said of just about every other piece of publicly commissioned art.

It is hard to imagine Mérida without el Monumento a la Patria, and it is unlikely we will ever have to. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Nowadays El Monumento a la Patria also serves many civic functions, being a popular location for everything from celebrating victories in sport to holding protests or vigils. 

Supporters of marriage equality at a rally in front of Mérida’s Monumento a la Bandera in 2019. Photo: Courtesy
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.
A D V E R T I S E M E N Tspot_img
A D V E R T I S E M E N Tspot_img
Verified by ExactMetrics