Mexicans have never had much affection for Cristopher Columbus, and officials were coy about why his statue was removed from the capital's main boulevard before Monday's observances of Columbus Day, which saw protests in several Latin American nations. Unlike in other cities where monuments to the 15th-century explorer have been toppled by protesters, in Mexico City the 19th-century bronze statue was gently lifted off its pedestal with a crane and taken away for restoration. But leaders danced around the question of when, or whether, it would return, the AP reports. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said it was just a coincidence it was removed just before the anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas—known in the Spanish-speaking world as "Día de la Raza." In past years, leftist and indigenous groups have spray-painted the statue on Oct. 12 and had appeared likely to do so again this year. López Obrador conceded "it is a date that is very controversial and lends itself to conflicting ideas and political conflicts."
In Mexico's western state of Michoacan, a coalition of largely Purepecha communities blocked roads to their territories and said in a statement, "We were not ‘discovered’... our lands were invaded and looted." In Chile, an unauthorized march supporting the nation's biggest Indigenous group, the Mapuche, erupted into clashes when police tried to stop the demonstration. The Mapuche long resisted Spanish conquerors, and later the Chilean government, and the march is held annually to reiterate claims to ancestral lands. In Bolivia, demonstrators marked Decolonization Day, painting a statue of Columbus red, for the blood of Indigenous peoples. Mexico's López Obrador rails against the conquest but has asked Mexicans "not to take their anger out on statues." Over the weekend, he published an open letter to Pope Francis saying, "The Catholic Church, the Spanish monarchy and the Mexican government should make a public apology for the offensive atrocities that Indigenous people suffered." Spain refused to apologize last year.
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