By Mark Stevenson
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."
The situation is a little more complicated than that. As we saw in Mexicans Gyrate in Blackface, Mexicans claim to be less racist than Americans. As we saw in Mexico Honors Indians, US Doesn't, they usually don't honor Indian killers.
It seems one city council and historian didn't these sensible attitudes and tried to reverse them:
"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.
If the monument below is the one we're talking about, it doesn't look like anything special. The stone pedestal is more impressive than the tiny figures atop it.
Anyway, good to see the Maya stand up and protest this regressive step. Fight the power, people!
For a similar battle, see The Best Indian Movies. For more on the subject in general, see Best Indian Monuments to Topple.