Sebastián de Belálcazar Statue in Popayán


By Contested Histories Initiative

The statue of Sebastian de Belalcazar, erected in 1940 in Popayan, Colombia, was torn down in September 2020 during a wave of protests. Local indigenous communities had long considered the statue as the embodiment of the city’s colonial past, and a symbol of the continued impact on their lived experience. The initial response of civil society organisations and public figures to the demolition of the statue was overall positive. At the same time, local authorities condemned it as ‘vandalism’ and promised to rebuild the statue. A dialogue was initiated between indigenous and state officials a week after the events to negotiate its reconstruction and the construction of a second statue to commemorate the indigenous community, but it seems to have been fruitless. In January 2021, the monument was moved for restoration, and the contestation continues.

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