GUATEMALA CITY – Protesters in Guatemala attempted to overthrow a statue of Christopher Columbus on Tuesday amid protests against the treatment of indigenous peoples by European conquerors, the latest effort by a global movement to review colonial symbols.
The demonstrations coincided with Hispanic Heritage Day, widely commemorated to mark the arrival of Columbus in America, but criticized for failing to recognize the disastrous impact on indigenous peoples, many of whom were enslaved or died of diseases that that foreigners had brought with them.
In the Guatemalan capital, a group of people tried to dismantle a towering statue of Columbus on Tuesday by pulling a long rope tied to its neck but failed to tear it off, social media videos showed .
The monument, which stretches 9 meters high and weighs 10 tons, was shipped from Spain to Guatemala in 1896.
Another group of demonstrators managed to tear the head off a memorial of former President Jose María Reina Barrios, who served from 1892 to 1898, after splattering it with red paint.
Daniel Pascual, a leading peasant rights advocate, said he took to the streets on Indigenous Resistance Day in order not to pay tribute to Columbus and the repressive leaders who followed him.
“They were intruders and a continuation of the invasion,” he said.
Guatemala City said in a statement that it opposed the “acts of vandalism” against monuments which it described as “historical heritage”.
From the 1490s onwards, Columbus led several expeditions financed by Spain and paved the way for the European conquest of America. A number of statues in honor of the Italian navigator have been removed from US cities since the protests against Black Lives Matter, as well as in other countries.
In Mexico’s capital, officials said Tuesday a replica of a pre-Hispanic sculpture depicting an indigenous woman referred to as “the young woman of Amajac” will be made Replace a bronze Columbus from the 19th century Statue located on the main thoroughfare of the city last year.