Wednesday, August 4

CDMX: Colón’s return to his roundabout in Mexico City is uncertain: now it is the pedestal that is deteriorated

Municipal workers remove a statue of Christopher Columbus in Mexico City in October.
Municipal workers remove a statue of Christopher Columbus in Mexico City in October.STRINGER / Reuters

Seven months after the statue of Columbus, on the Paseo de Reforma in the Mexican capital, came down from its pedestal to be restored, it is still unknown when it will return. The repair tasks will conclude by August, according to the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), which is the one that has been in charge of the work. But nothing indicates that this is the date he leaves the workshop, because now there is talk of the poor condition of the pedestal and it is unknown when it will be renewed. The Genoese admiral will have to wait.

The sculptural group was removed from the central city promenade at night, two days before October 12, 2020, the date on which the sailor arrived in America in 1492, a commemoration with which many do not agree and that has caused the demolition of some statues of Columbus in various parts of the world. For this reason, the operation of the city government raised some suspicions. In social networks there was talk in those days of tearing down the statue.

And the repair work began. Slow, according to the INAH, because of the pandemic, which has caused some personnel problems. “Progress has been made in the treatment and cleaning of the graffiti and graffiti left by some protest marches. It is a delicate job to avoid altering the patina of the metal ”, says the national coordinator of Restoration of the INAH, María del Carmen Castro Barrera.

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The bronze Columbus is accompanied by the friars Pedro de Gante, Bartolomé de las Casas, Juan Pérez de Marchena and Diego de Deza. Each one has had different treatments, due to the pollution suffered by the area, with constant traffic. Work has also been done to eliminate old repairs with artificial patinas and repaints, foreign materials that have had to be cleaned. “In August we will be finishing all this, and the government of the city will have to determine their return,” says Castro Barrera.

But do not think that it will be in summer when Colón arrives again at his roundabout. “What is most damaged is the basement and if it is not repaired it is likely that the statue will not be placed,” says the restorer. “Hopefully there are resources to restore it.” There is no information yet on what all this will cost, and neither on the possible intervention on the pedestal.

The Paseo de Reforma has multiple statues, both in the roundabouts and on the sides, but there is no forecast that others will be removed. The one in Cuauhtémoc, in another of the roundabouts, has suffered vandalism, the legs of some leopards have been cut off and insurance is being worked to see their repair. “In this case, I don’t think it is necessary to lower the statue,” says the INAH specialist.

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Both urban monuments have the same exposure to environmental pollution, but the Cuauhtémoc pedestal is in better condition than Colón’s, they say. “They are different types of stone”, clarifies the restorer. The material of sedimentary origin where the Genoese sits “is more susceptible to deterioration.”

The statue of Columbus landed on the coast of Veracruz in 1875, donated by a Mexican businessman and banker, Antonio Escandón. The bronze had come from the workshop of Charles Cordier, a French sculptor. Those were good years for the admiral, whose memory was honored with statues in many cities around the world. The winds have changed and with them, the fate of the sailor, who is no longer well received in many places.

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