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Mayas protest monument to Spanish conquistadors

Montejo monument wiki The city of Merida on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula is reviewing a petition to remove a recently built public monument to the city's colonial founder, a figure whom some indigenous Mayas regard as a violent conquistador. The municipal government accepted the petition from a coalition of Mayan organizations to reconsider the monument and statues depicting Francisco de Montejo, known as "El Adelantado," and his son, also named Francisco and known as "El Mozo." The younger Montejo established Merida in 1542, on the site of the former Maya city of T'ho.

The statues, showing the two Montejo men in classic conquistador armor, were erected in June on a roundabout on an emblematic boulevard also named after Francisco de Montejo. Outgoing Mayor Cesar Bojorquez Zapata inaugurated the monument on the last day of his term (link in Spanish), at the request of local historians and businessmen who argued that the founder of modern Merida should be memorialized in some way on the city's major streets.

The push was headed by historian Juan Peon Ancona, who said at the inauguration, according to a newspaper's video of the event, that the erection of a monument to the Montejos is an example of "historical justice and maturity."

"Welcome Montejo," Peon said. "Why have you taken so long to get here?"

Bojorquez, the former Merida mayor, is a member of the conservative National Action Party. The party lost its hold on Merida in elections in May after two decades of continuous terms in city hall. The new mayor, Angelica Araujo, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, could potentially be more sympathetic to the indigenous groups' concerns, said a report at the website Yucatan Living. A new city council is expected to take up the issue.

Here is the text of the Maya groups' letter to Araujo's government, in Spanish.

The overall conquest of the Yucatan and the Maya civilization is one of the bloodiest and longest in the history of the Western Hemisphere, facts which other historians and yucatecos say is offensively disregarded in a monument to "El Adelantado" and "El Mozo."

As emissaries of the Spanish crown, the Montejo men led bands of conquistadors into numerous bloody battles against indigenous resisters between 1528 and 1546, killing thousands of Maya. The indigenous population of the Yucatan Peninsula then succumbed to widespread slavery on hacienda plantations and the general suppression of their culture.

"This represents an insult for the Maya nation," Maya activist Artemio Kaamal, told the Associated Press. "This injures the identity and roots of the Mayan people."

Another local historian, Genner de Jesus Llanes Ortiz, points out on his blog that Merida is a "multicultural city," with 42% of its population described as culturally and linguistically Maya, according to government figures (link in Spanish).

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: The monument in Merida to the Montejo conquistadors. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Comments () | Archives (23)

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boring got more

I've lived in Merida my whole life, I was born here, and I respect the mayan people, but let's not forget the fact that the Montejos founded our city and many other in the Yucatan Peninsula, and if it weren't for the spanish conquest Mexico would not exist.

Most of us are not spaniards, nor mayas, but we are all mexicans. Let's be grateful for what we have today, and accept history.

This is all ancient history. Most of the Mayans one encounters, and I've encountered many since in the 10 years I've lived in Merida have never visited any of the Mayan sites that surround us. The sites are free too Mexican citizens on Sundays. I would guess that 99% of the Mayans would have no opinion what so ever of the statues in question. The statues themselves seem well executed but the pedestal they stand on is out of scale and abominable. From my point of view as a designer and failed artist the real crime in progress is the destruction of the Paseo Montejo (where the statues are erected) and the historic center Merida. The colonial city itself is disappearing to either neglect, modern construction of no interest or merit and poorly executed renovations. There is virtually nothing left of the Mayan city of T'ho on which Merida is constructed.
The Mayans have already built their monuments on the Yucatan peninsula like Uxmal, Tulum, Ek Balaam, Coba and Chichen Itza. There are worse things than statues being erected on the Paseo Montejo like McDonalds, Burger King and Walmart where is the Mayan outrage?

Whats worse Mayan mass ritual sacrifice of children for hundreds of years or mass murder by invaders for gold or mass ritual murder by drug gangs or mass murder by Mexican government who are the European ancestors of the invaders?

I agree with the Maya. Mexican people always pride themselves with the fact that they're descendants of the aztec and mayan people and for the government to honor the people who slaughtered them in a town with a large indigenous population its kind of a slap in the face. Its like erecting a memorial to british colonial troops in boston harbor.

And now Mexicans are invading the US.

Mexico needs to start changing names of Spanish colonial cities and towns into indigineous, Mayan, or Aztec names in honor of the first American Indians living in Mexico. India, already changed their colonial city names, from Bombay, into Mumbai.

El continuo abuso de las minories etnicas en este caso de nosotros los mayas aun en nuestro estado y toda la pininsula maya es pan de todos los dias, bojorquez zapata sera juzgado como traicionero por la gente, por su conciencia y por el dios unico, levantemos y mantengamos la frente en alto, no mas asesinos y nombres de asesinos espanoles exibidos, en nuestra tierra MAYA

Various sources claim that 60% to 90% of Mayans traded their indigenous superstitions for the Catholic superstition, thus they presumably welcomed the cultural shift the conquistadors brought them. After 15,000 years they had not developed the wheel, the bow and arrow, or farm animals, et cetera, and one might judge that they have gained both length and quality of life due to modern inventions and medicine.

They seem to feel a sense of loss, however, of their Mayan identity. Why not create an equal monument commemorating the valor of heroes of the Mayan resistance and place it as close as possible to the Montejos' monument? Equal treatment for all seems appropriate in a multicultural city such as Merida.

The local indigenous population is right to resent a monument to a conquistador, but Montejo was still the city's founder. If he hadn't gotten there and conquered the region, there probably wouldn't even be a Merida in which to protest... for better or for worse.

Also, the activists' letter is misleading. It is true that tens of thousands of Maya were killed directly by Spanish conquistadors, or by the hacienda slave system, but millions more were killed unintentionally by Old World diseases, especially smallpox.

In any case, once the PRI comes back to power (a horrifying prospect, I know), they'll probably take the statues down anyway (anything to buy votes, right?) so this is really a moot issue now.

Well for those who don't know or realize it; the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas were killing the heck out of each other in a most horrible manner. And for those who survived, it was given to them: the bloody, naked walk up the pyramids of doom to be killed by having their hear torn out while they were still alive.

Me thinks the savage Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas had better be thankful they're not walking around naked, praying to stone gods in their fading civilizations. The "conquistadores" brought both Christianity and a more enduring, tolerant civilization.

The American Indians were also, before any European set foot on "America", killing each other in savage battles.

History is history. You can't change it. What happened 500 years ago was the way things were done. Or, perhaps we should tear down all of the statues of Europeans because we have PC (political correctness) today. I think not.

If the Mayas want to, they can go naked in their stone temples (which still exist) today; without cars, heating and air, electricity and many of the inventions that the Europeans brought with them or invented since the temple deaths were abolished by the Spanish.

I don't blame the Mayan's one bit to get rid of it.
Why honor these murderers with a statue of them.
That's why Mexico is still in turmoil.

The conquistadors were just looking for a new world. They didn't mean any harm, they just wanted to work.

who cares about this story or these people that just want to rewrite history. what have they contributed to anything that matters or any civic government? maybe they can protest the aztecs next. instead of just trying to make trouble, they should instead study history - but that is like work and not much fun

Something has to remind them that they will be eternally oppressed... LOL!!!

A bit like flying the Confederate flag is for African Americans.

Putting up a statue to these Spanish Terrorists is like putting a statue of Osama Bin Ladin at Ground Zero.

Juan Peon Acosta deserves to be tarred, feathered, and whipped in public by the local Mayan Elders.

And that statue is missing something: pour a bucket of BLOOD over it.
Now it's complete.

Now you understand why we oppose the mosque in that spot. Yet no one says anything about them moving it to where it is needed most, 20 blocks away where a muslim community is in need of a mosque/community center.

"historical justice and maturity."

Ah yes, the "justice" of White Supremacy. The "maturity" of genocide.

If he's so concerned about "maturity", then why didn't he construct a monument to the REAL founders of that area?

THE MAYAS are the real founders. Europeans invaded as pirates, murderers, and the rejects of Europe who couldn't cut it in their own homelands. They even wrote about it shamelessly. We don't need to surmise.

Europeans killed 95% of all Indigenous People within their first 100 years. Where is the statue for that?

Mexico should honor their early settlers.

They need to take that monument down NOW. It's an insult to all Mexicans, indigenous or mestizos, to honor those who killed our ancestors. The Spanish only brought death, poverty, illness and disgrace to a flourishing culture. The Spanish only brought all the bad genes to America. That's why Mexico can't get out the corruption. If you look at who are the ones governing Mexico, you'll see mostly people that look more Spanish than indigenous. The only indigenous president Mexico has ever had was Benito Juarez and he was an example and pride for all Mexicans not only in Mexico but in the American continent.

What? There are Mayans still living? Catch them, quick, and force them to tell us where the fabled City of Gold is located! An end to the recession is near, my friends!

Adding insult to injury...and putting it on a pedestal.


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