Following mounting criticism from the country’s indigenous community, the Mexico City government has backtracked on its commission from contemporary artist Pedro Reyes to replace a Columbus monument recently removed from the city’s main thoroughfare. This week, nearly 400 Mexican artists, writers and curators signed an open letter opposing the selection of Reyes, “a male artist who does not identify as indigenous”, to create a sculpture of an indigenous woman.
On September 5, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum announced that a bust of an Olmec woman by Reyes, titled “Tlalli,” would be erected on a roundabout along Paseo de la Reforma, where once stood the imposing bronze of Christopher Columbus. The likeness of the colonizer was removed by local authorities last October ahead of Día de la Raza, the day Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492.
But many have protested that the government’s appointment of Reyes was a unilateral decision and prevented other artists from lending their vision to the prestigious commission, especially women of Indigenous descent. The Movimiento Indígena de la Ciudad de México published a letter to Sheinbaum “regarding the monument to be placed on the pedestal that symbolized colonialism, ferocious and murderous, which for 500 years exploited our indigenous people”. The group requested that the project involve indigenous artists and integrate their proposals.
Yesterday, Sheinbaum said a committee formed by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the Ministry of Culture would instead nominate an artist.
“We decided to entrust this decision to the Committee for Monuments and Works of Art in Public Spaces of Mexico City, made up of institutions from the city and the Mexican government, such as INAH, as well as historians and residents. ,” she said in a press release.
Sheinbaum then thanked Reyes for accepting and prioritizing the commission and said it was “very likely” that his work would be exhibited publicly in the city.
“Given the concerns raised by the selection process for the new monument on Paseo de la Reforma, I would like to emphasize my support for the mayor’s decision to submit my project to the Committee for Monuments and Works of Art in Public Spaces ( COMAEP),” Reyes told Hyperallergic.
“I celebrate the call for new proposals and the establishment of a process that leads to the best possible choice,” he added.
This is a developing story, please check for updates.
Editor’s Note 09/15/2021 03:28 EST: This article has been updated to include a comment from Pedro Reyes.