The Supreme Court is about to rule on what to do with the statue of Christopher Columbus, which currently resides disassembled on Costanera Norte near Aeroparque, after the Kirchner administration removed it from behind the Casa Rosada, replacing it with a statue of Latin American mestiza revolutionary Juana Azurduy. Groups such as “Colón en su Lugar” argue that pollution from the Rio de la Plata will severely damage the Carrara marble it is carved from, and hope that the Court should return the monument to its original location rather than assembling it on the Costanera.
Recently, a pro-Columbus group met with three members of the General Secretariat of the Presidency in an attempt to influence the fate of the monument. The group comprised Mario Chiesa, coordinator of “Colón en su Lugar”; Alejandro Marrocco, an attorney representing Italian-Argentinian interests; and Ernesto Ordóñez, vice-president of FEDESPA (Federation of Spanish Societies in Argentina).
Historically, groups in defense of the Columbus statue have been right-leaning groups of Italian and Spanish descent, who believe Columbus’ European invasion and murder of Latin American indigenous peoples is an important part of Argentine identity. Or, in the words of Marrococo and Chiesa, the statue is a “historical symbol of modern Argentina and a memorial of the millions who left his homeland of origin to nourish ours.”
Meanwhile, after some restoration, in September the Juana Azurduy statue will be moved from the Casa Rosada to the Plaza del Correo in front of the Néstor Kirchner Cultural Center. This is to make way for the “Paseo del Bajo,” a new highway that will run along the Alicia Moreau de Justo Avenue, and green spaces that the city government plans to include in the Plaza Colón.
What does this mean for the people on the ground? By removing from the Casa Rosada both the controversial figure of Columbus, who symbolizes the European heritage of some and the colonization and massacre of indigenous peoples to others and replacing it with Juana Azurduy — a symbol of female representation, Latin American independence, and indigenous communities — the government appears to be neutralizing the fight for national identity and history making whether intentionally or not. Without reading too much into the steps followed so far, remodeling the plaza to exclude historical figures that have polarized the right and the left is a clear and deliberate move to the political center.