Things That Matter

Puerto Rican Activists Are Leading The Fight For The Removal Of Colonial Monuments On The Island

As activists across the United States continue to rally behind the removal of Confederate statues and symbols of racism, many are doing their part to ensure monuments honoring those who led the genocide of Indigenous people are being toppled as well. In Puerto Rico, a similar call for the removal of such monuments are highlighting the current population’s fight to dethrone tributes to colonization.

In Puerto Rico (and other regions of the United States affected by Spanish colonialism) protests are pushing for the removal of colonial figures.

Statues, public plazas, and roads paying homage to colonizers like Christopher Columbus and Juan Ponce de León can be seen all over Puerto Rico and areas of Florida. Historically both figures have been touted for being “explorers” but their cruel treatment of Puerto Rico’s indigenous Taíno people has only recently being examined. Historical evidence shows that, like other colonizers of the Americas, both men contributed to the near extermination of indigenous populations including Tainos. Columbus in particular is noted for having led a brutal regime that crushed and enslaved these populations.

Activists are speaking out about the statutes and monuments attributed to Columbus and Ponce De Léon.

“It is an act of violence to even have the statues in our homelands,” Elena Ortiz, chair of the Santa Fe Freedom Council of The Red Nation, explained in an interview with USA Today. “It’s not just the statue, but it’s what it represented: the celebration of our genocide.”

“[The conquistadors] brought with them not only these weapons of mass destruction but also the imposition of the Catholic Church and the imposition of a patriarchal government on peaceful matrilineal societies,” Ortiz went onto explain. “Those colonially imposed systems exist to this day, and have impacted generations.”

Across Puerto Rico statues of these historical figures have been toppled in protests responding to the current widespread call to end the support of police brutality and the oppression of minorities.

As USA Today points out, similar actions are taking place in Los Angeles and San Francisco where statues of Junípero Serra have recently been removed or destroyed by protesters. “Without liberation for all, there’s no liberation for any of us,” Ortiz concluded. “Every movement from Black Lives Matter, to defund the police, to tearing down these statues shows a deep, deep dissatisfaction with the state of the world right now.”

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