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A symbol of 'extermination': Indigenous Colombians tear down conquistador statue

A toppled statue of Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar in Popayán, Colombia.
A toppled statue of Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar in Popayán, Colombia. © AFP / FRANCE 24
2 min

A statue of a Spanish conquistador overlooking the Colombian city of Popayán has been torn down by members of indigenous groups in the latest case of a monument to a historical figure with links to racism or colonialism being targeted by protesters.

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The statue of Sebastián de Belalcázar had stood above Popayán, the Colombian city he founded, since 1937.

But on Wednesday, September 16, indigenous people armed with ropes pulled the statue from its pedestal, toppling what they say is a symbol of the country's colonial past.

Images of the statue being pulled down were posted on social media and protesters could be heard cheering and celebrating as the structure toppled.

It came amid a protest by the indigenous Misak, Nasa and Pijao communities against the "cultural and physical extermination" of native Colombians in the 500 years since Spanish conquest, AFP reported.

De Belalcázar founded Popayán in 1537 during the Spanish conquest of what is now Colombia and also founded Quito in Ecuador. But the Misak people accuse him of stealing their lands and the killing of their ancestors.

It is the latest of several statue-topplings around the world in recent months, which began in the US with the targeting of statues of Confederate figures as part of the Black Lives Matter movement and has since spread to other countries, including the UK and France.

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