A statue of the explorer Christopher Columbus that was removed last year in Mexico City will be replaced by a statue of an Indigenous woman to honor the country’s Native people, the mayor of Mexico City said on Sunday.
“We’ll place a statue dedicated to the Indigenous woman,” she said in a news conference on Sunday, which was the Day of the Indigenous Woman. “We owe it to them. We exist because of them,” she added. “It is the history of our country and our homeland.”
She said the statue would go up as soon as Oct. 12, Dia de la Raza, a day to recognize the legacies of Columbus and Indigenous cultures.
In Mexico City, the Columbus statue was removed last year before Oct. 12 for restoration work, according to The Associated Press. After, graffiti covered metal barriers that surrounded the area, reading in Spanish, “Christopher Columbus killer!! We’ve already knocked him down!!”
Monuments to Columbus, the Italian navigator who sailed to the Americas on behalf of Spain in 1492, have drawn objections and protests for at least a century, with many describing him as a founding father of colonialism in the Western Hemisphere and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The moves follow longstanding calls by Native American groups, which argue that Columbus’s travels led to the genocide of Indigenous populations in the Americas, to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Last year, protesters around the world damaged statues depicting Columbus after demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis grew to focus on monuments that were seen as symbols of white supremacy and oppression.
In St. Paul, Minn., a group of protesters tied ropes around the neck of a 10-foot bronze sculpture of Columbus and yanked it from its pedestal. In Boston, the head of a statue of Columbus in the North End was removed, and pieces of it were found nearby.
And in Richmond, Va., a Columbus statue was torn down and tossed into a lake in a city park during a demonstration in support of Indigenous peoples.
When the Mexico City statue was removed last year, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico said that Columbus Day was “a date that is very controversial and lends itself to conflicting ideas and political conflicts.”
The Columbus statue will be moved to Parque América in the city’s Polanco neighborhood, Mayor Sheinbaum said.