Mexican city to consider Mayas request to remove monument to conquistadores

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A city in southern Mexico agreed Wednesday to consider a petition by Mayan Indians to remove a recently installed monument to the Spanish conquistadores who led the bloody conquest of the region in the 1500s.

Over 100 Mayan groups and individuals from Yucatan and other Mexican states signed the petition asking that the monument to Francisco de Montejo and his son be removed from a boulevard in Merida, Yucatan's state capital. It was installed in June.

Between 1528 and 1546, Montejo and later his son led bloody battles for control of the Yucatan peninsula, killing Mayas by the thousands and suppressing Mayan culture. The Maya continued to resist, but their lands were largely taken and many were forced to labor on plantations owned by the descendants of the conquerors.

"This represents an insult for the Maya nation," Artemio Kaamal of the Maya civic group Kuxa'an'on ("We are Alive" in Maya), said of the monument. "This injures the identity and roots of the Mayan people."

Kaamal and other activists delivered the petition earlier this week to the city government, and Merida cultural affairs director Roger Metri Duarte said it will be submitted to the city council, to see what can be done with the life-size bronze statues.

Metri Duarte said the council should take up the issue next week, but the issue remains a sensitive one in a city where most residents are a mix of Spanish and Indian blood, along with later waves of immigration.

"It isn't easy to take sides, when we are made up of so many races," said Metri Duarte. "The main thing is what the law says."

He said the statues were accepted by the previous mayor's administration under an agreement with a local civic group, and it was unclear if they could be removed under the rules of the agreement.

Historian Juan Peon Ancona called the monument "an example of historical maturity and justice" when the statues were unveiled in late June.

"This ceremony breaks a historical taboo against erecting monuments to those who came and conquered us," he said in a video of the ceremony posted on YouTube.

Peon Ancona said the Montejos — who already have an avenue in Merida named after them — "gave us the Spanish language and the Catholic faith," and were deserving of the honor.

Kaamal called it a sign of how little has changed. "Five hundred years later, they think we are still the same, but not any more. Now we hold our heads high in dignity."

Mexicans have traditionally spurned any attempt to praise the conquistadores, and there are hardly any monuments to them in the country.