Residents of Mexico City are decrying a decision by officials to remove a statue protesting gender violence that had been mounted by activists last year.
El Universal reported that Claudia Sheinbaum, who serves as Head of Government in Mexico City (a position akin to a state governor), had made the call to remove the feminist “anti-monument.” The statue currently appears in a roundabout in the city, and will soon be replaced by another monument.
In 2020, amid a wave of protests that saw monuments toppled all over the world, Mexican activists took it upon themselves to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus that stood on Paseo de la Reforma Avenue.
The government proposed that the statue be replaced with a new work of art honoring Indigenous people by Pedro Reyes. But this plan was quickly condemned by feminists and artists who pointed out that a white male artist may not have been the best person for this job.
The pedestal stood empty until activists hoisted their own statue, a purple piece of metal that shows a woman in silhouette with her arm raised. In the back, there is a stand with the word “JUSTICIA” carved on it. It has stood on the pedestal in the roundabout since it was installed September of 2021.
The state that will replace it, according to El Universal, is a replica of The Young Woman of Amajac. Made between 1450 and 1521, the statue was discovered by farmers in Veracruz just last year.
Sheinbaum said that she wanted to place a work on the roundabout that would honor Indigenous women.
“They are women who have historically fought for our country, and it is precisely the indigenous women who have had the least voice, who were the most discriminated against,” Sheimbaum said at the press conference. “The idea is to have a special place for them on Paseo de la Reforma.”
The women who put the guerrilla statue in place disagree that The Young Woman of Amajac is the correct work to occupy that space. In an interview with Courthouse News, members of the feminist coalition Antimonumenta Viva Nos Queremos, Antimonument (We Want Us Alive, Anti-Monument) described the decision to place the Amajac work on the roundabout as mere tokenization.
“They speak of indigenous women, of inclusion, they have a political agenda they must stick to, but there’s no real inclusion,” said coalition member Marcela, who, like the group’s other members, preferred to conceal her last name.
Activists claim that the government-approved statue would potentially destroy the meaning that the roundabout took on for Mexican feminists.
“It’s a site of living memory, a symbol that embraces all the struggles of women, not just one person or group,” said Fernanda, another coalition member, in an interview with Courthouse News.
The roundabout became colloquially known as Roundabout of the Women Who Fight. It is covered in graffiti bearing feminist statements as well as a wall with names of gender violence victims. The roundabout has become a recurring site for protests and gatherings that have drawn attention to an epidemic of killings of women and girls in Mexico that has become known as femicide.
Mexico City’s recent waves of feminist protests over the past few years has indubitably marked the city, both physically and psychically, and the coalition doesn’t want that forgotten.
“It’s not about putting up a monument to worship the past, but one to recognize the present fight, all the women who have disappeared,” coalition member Érica told Courthouse News.