Monument to Maya heritage would replace Montejo statues at the Remate

A nod to Yucatán's pre-Hispanic past in a city where men are usually depicted as the heroes

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
A dignified monument honoring Yucatán’ indigenous culture and inspired by pre-Hispanic Maya architecture has been proposed to replace a 2010 statue depicting the capital city’s European founders, inset.

Just as monuments to Confederate figures are coming down in the United States, so should the statue depicting the Spanish conquerors who appear to be surveying the boulevard that bears the family name, says architect Falú Balam. His firm has designed a new monument that honors Yucatán’s pre-Hispanic heritage, and he is in talks with city officials to make it happen.

His firm, Zteich Global, surveyed 500 residents and found scant acceptance of the Francisco de Montejo monument, which portrays a victorious father and son dressed as they would have in the 1500s — when indigenous Maya were under the thumb of the Europeans.

In its place, Balam proposes an otherworldly female figure who appears to be gravitating toward the heavens. The new monument would be the only one on the Paseo de Montejo that is centered on a woman.

The structure is inspired by pre-Hispanic Maya architecture, mainly in the Puuc style. Its proportions are based on Uxmal’s Palace of the Governor and evoke a Mesoamerican pyramid.  An aerial view reveals a mosaic at the bottom of a body of water, indicating the lunar phases. The moon, representative of femininity, is traditionally associated with fertility, agriculture and prosperity. Around the body of water, a garden consists of native flora.

City Hall has received the proposal and has not commented on the likelihood of it being built and displacing the Montejo statue, which would be moved to the center of the Remate, where the Christmas tree is erected now. The plan would be for the figures in both monuments to face each other in an eternal gaze.

“Like a dialogue of cultures,” Balam suggests.

Balam said he has assurances from City Hall that the project will be discussed in the first quarter of 2021.

The thought of replacing the monument was inspired by recent events in the United States, especially the killing of George Floyd and the protests that toppled numerous public monuments to divisive historical figures.

The Monument to the Montejo, on Calle 47, is reminiscent of America’s Civil War and Christopher Columbus statues. But this statue was erected just 10 years ago, on the last day of the mayor’s administration.

“It is very questionable what was done and how it was done, because the city simply woke up with a new monument,” Balam says, later adding, “Every year people start complaining about the monument but nobody does anything about it.”

The cost of the monument would fall to City Hall while the 2010 monument was paid for by private initiative, he says.

 If it is a project for the people, Balam says, it would have to be financed by the institution that represents them.

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