A group of anti-capitalist councillors in Barcelona are hoping to topple the statue of Christopher Columbus that has stood at the foot of La Rambla for more than a century, arguing that the city should not be celebrating the explorer’s colonial legacy.
The 197ft (60-metre) high memorial, topped with a bronze statue of the Genoan pointing out to sea, has been part of Barcelona’s skyline since 1888. Its base pays homage to Columbus’s colleagues and his patrons, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
In proposals to be submitted to the city council on Friday, the three CUP Capgirem councillors call for the statue to be taken down along with “all the decorations at the base of the column that glorify the conquest of America and its ‘museumification’ through historical interpretation”.
Far more fitting, they say, would be a memorial reflecting “American resistance to imperialism, oppression and indigenous and African-American segregation”.
The image of Columbus is not the only monument on their hitlist: the councillors also want the statue of the merchant and slave trader Antonio López y López, Marquis of Comillas, removed from its plinth outside the post office building. In its place, the trio propose a monument to commemorate the victims of the slave trade.
Their suggestions, however, go well beyond statuary. As well as removing Spanish flags from municipal buildings in Barcelona, they would also like to see 12 October – the national holiday on which Spain celebrates Columbus’s landfall in the Americas – turned into an ordinary working day.
They say the date not only marks “an intolerable act of colonialism and imperialism”, but also “the genocide of the indigenous American population by colonist-conquistadors, and an act of aggressive Spanish nationalism against all the peoples that it oppresses and has oppressed”.
Last is a demand for the council to ban fascist events in the city.
The notion of celebrating 12 October is increasingly distasteful to some in Spain, especially those on the left.
Last year, Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, said the country should not be marking “a genocide” with an €800,000 (£700,000) military parade, while José María González, the Podemos-backed mayor of the southern city of Cádiz, tweeted: “We never discovered America; we massacred and suppressed a continent and its cultures in the name of God.”