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Friday, October 15, 2021

Monument to the Montejo ‘covered in blood’ once again

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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.
Police arrived on the scene and attempted to disperse the crowd and protect the monument, however, the damage had already been done. Photo: Por Esto

A group of protesters staged a demonstration in front of the monument to the Montejo, vandalizing it and chanting anti-colonialistic slogans. 

The protestors covered the well-known city landmark with red paint and handprints, to represent the blood spilled by European conquerors. 

By morning the statue to the Montejo had already been cleaned up, but still bore the marks of several previous protests. Photo. Lee Steele

Known as Columbus Day in much of the English-speaking world, but as El Día de la Raza, or “race day” in Mexico, October 12th  commemorates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492.

Though in the past the day used to be celebrated in schools and was akin to a holiday, in recent years the anniversary has taken on a more controversial tone.

But last night’s protest was not just an anti-colonialism rally, as protestors also chanted slogans such as “out with Kekén” and “Justice for José Eduardo.” These calls made reference to the environmental damage being allegedly caused by the large pork producer and the death of a young gay man at the hands of police in Mérida last summer. 

Several individuals and organizations have come forward with alternate designs which could replace the monument to the Montejo. For example, the architect Falú Balamb has designed a new monument that honors Yucatán’s pre-Hispanic heritage and is in talks with city officials to make it happen.

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

This is not the first time the monument to the Montejo has been vandalized, as it has been the target for demonstrators protesting issues surrounding colonialism, racism, and women’s issues since it was erected in 2010.

The statue in question depicts Francisco de Montejo, known as El Adelantado (the one that came first), and his son, Francisco de Montejo, who were the first Europeans to occupy Yucatán.

The Montejos are regarded as ruthless mercenaries and murderers by some, and virtuous explorers and evangelizers by others. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Though the statue has not been popular with a large part of Mérida’s population, calls for its removal were reinvigorated when news came that a statue of Christopher Columbus which stood since 1877 would be removed from Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City.

There is little doubt that the Monument to the Montejo will continue to be a focal point for protests going further, as well as a target for people wanting to get their point across. 

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