A replica of a mysterious pre-Hispanic sculpture of an indigenous woman has been chosen to replace a statue of Christopher Columbus on Mexico City’s most important boulevard.
The statue was unearthed in January in the Huasteca area near the Gulf of Mexico coast. She is known as the Young Woman of Amajac, from the name of the village where she was found buried in a field. But no one really knows who the stone sculpture was meant to represent.
The National Institute of Anthropology and History said at the time that the statue resembled depictions of a fertility goddess from Huastec culture. But archaeologists at the institute also said she may have been part of the elite or ruling class.
The replica will be up to three times the size of the 6-foot (2-meter) original, which is on display at the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. City authorities decided that the statue of Christopher Columbus should be moved to a less prominent site and replaced with a native woman because she was underrepresented.
The aesthetics of the replica will be a radical departure from the statue of Columbus. The Young Woman of Amajac is pre-Hispanic in style with an open gaze because the colored stones that were probably originally inserted into her eye sockets have been lost.
Although there were other sculptures of Aboriginal people on the city’s Reforma Boulevard, they were generally done in a neoclassical style that matched the ornate base of the ancient statue of Christopher Columbus, urns and other carvings on the Boulevard.
The Young Woman of Amajac will be placed on the original neo-classical plinth.
The Columbus statue was removed last year, supposedly to be restored, shortly before October 12, which the United States calls Columbus Day, but Mexicans call Día de la Raza, or Race Day – the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas in 1492. Protesters have frequently targeted the Columbus statue for graffiti protesting the brutal treatment of indigenous people.
Plans to replace the statue of Christopher Columbus have caused controversy among critics of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City, who saw it as an attempt to rewrite Spain out of world history. country and diminish the Spanish role in the foundation and culture of Mexico. .
“The idea that Mexico is the product of a combination of Spanish culture and indigenous culture, among young historians, is coming to an end,” said Ilán Semo, a historian at the Ibero-American University. The story being written, Semo said, “sees Spaniards as the origin of racism [in Mexico]”.
The Columbus statue controversy came as the country marked the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) to the Spanish.
Sheinbaum often spoke this year of “500 years of Indigenous resistance” and suggested replacing Columbus with the image of an Indigenous woman.
But interpretations of a proposed replacement statue have drawn widespread derision: Artist Pedro Reyes said the sculpture was inspired by Olmec statuary, but the work has been described as resembling a sci-fi alien.
Sheinbaum canceled the sculpture and instructed the city’s Landmarks and Public Works of Art Committee to choose an alternative. She described replacing Columbus as the “decolonization of Paseo de la Reforma”, the most emblematic boulevard of the capital.
On Tuesday, the director of the institute of anthropology, Diego Prieto Hernández, acknowledged that the continuing threats against the statue of Christopher Columbus were behind the decision to move it to a quieter park in an upscale neighborhood where protests are rare.
“It was based, not on an ideological judgment of the [Columbus] character, but rather due to a need to retain the sculptural group, which if left in place would have been the target of threats and protests,” said Prieto Hernández.