Christopher Columbus monument removal, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Monument to Christopher Columbus (1451?-1506), located in a plaza in front of the Casa Rosada government palace, was inaugurated in 1921. It was a gift from the Italian-Argentinian community in response to a solicitation for proposals by a government commission in 1910 to commemorate independence from Spain, although the centennial emphasized Argentina’s European heritage. A noted Italian sculptor, Arnaldo Zocchi, created the monument from Italian marble.
In 2013, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced the Columbus Monument would be replaced with a statue of Juana Azurduy de Padilla, a mestiza guerrilla leader born in 1780 in a region that is now Bolivia. Azurduy commanded armies during Argentina's early nineteenth-century independence wars, but had been largely forgotten. Many Argentines welcomed the decision to remove Columbus from his central pedestal in the capital. Organizations representing the nation's diverse indigenous groups lauded it as historical reparation. Beginning with 1992’s quincentennial celebrations of Columbus’ ‘discovery’, the anniversary (October 12) became an annual call to defend indigenous rights. Protestors marred Columbus statues in several Latin American cities with red paint. In Buenos Aires, many denounced the Columbus monument as symbolic of an erasure of indigenous people’s history and identity, but preservationists and Italian-Argentinians held counter-removal demonstrations and brought lawsuits questioning whether the national government could remove a city monument. However, the monument of Azurduy, sculpted by the Buenos Aires native and indigenous rights activist Andrés Zerneri, officially replaced Columbus in July 2015. The Columbus monument was relocated near the city’s international airport. Ironically, in 2017 the Azurduy statue itself was relocated from near the Casa Rosada, where public access had become prohibited, to an open plaza nearby.
Cheryl Jiménez Frei, “Columbus, Juana and the Politics of the Plaza: Battles over Monuments, Memory and Identity in Buenos Aires,” Journal of Latin American Studies 51 (2019): 607-638. DOI:10.1017/S0022216X18001086.