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New design announced to replace Mexico City’s controversial Columbus statue

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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.
The original “young woman of Amaja,” found last January in Mexico’s Huasteca region. Photo: INAH

A replica of a prehispanic sculpture of a woman will replace Mexico City’s controversial Columbus statue.

Though it was originally reported that the figure on display would be an original prehispanic artifact, authorities are now confirming that the piece chosen is in fact a replica. 

The replacement is said to be three times the size of the six-foot-tall original, which was found earlier this year in the Huasteca region of central Mexico.

The figure, dubbed the “young woman of Amaja,” after the village where it was discovered is said to resemble a local fertility goddess, according to INAH.

“We owe it to them. We exist because of them. It is the history of our country and our homeland,” said México City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum in reference to her government’s decision to choose the image of an indigenous woman to replace that of Columbus. 

Originally, the artist Pedro Reyes had been commissioned to create the new monument which would have depicted an Olmec woman. However, critics derided the decision claiming that having a male, non-indigenous artist produce such a piece would be hypocritical — which of course only further inflamed opinions across the board. 

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

The date when the new statue will be installed has not been announced, and for the time being the monumental pedestal sits empty. The statue, which will presumably be 18 feet tall, will be placed atop the pedestal previously occupied by the visage of Cristopher Columbus. 

The monument to Columbus has stood in México City’s bustling Paseo de Reforma since 1877. The reaction to the decision to replace the iconic statue has been controversial, to say the least. While some saw the decision as being long overdue, others saw the move as nothing more than a stunt by the city government.

The removal of the statue of the Genovese 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.

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