Protesters from Colombia’s indigenous Misak community have toppled the statue of Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar in the south-western city of Popayán, claiming the equestrian bronze represented five centuries of genocide and slavery.

A BBC report said police looked on as members of the Misak community used ropes to tear down the figure of de Belalcázar, who founded the city in 1537.

While Misak leaders said the statue represented centuries of genocide and slavery, Popayán mayor Juan Carlos López said it was an act of violence against a symbol of a multicultural city.

De Belalcázar led numerous expeditions in north-western parts of South America, notably conquering the Inca city of Quito, now the capital of Ecuador.

Wikipedia notes that at a village called Quinche near Puritaco, De Belalcázar found that all the men were away fighting with the national army. To make an example of these people (and to vent his frustration at finding so little treasure), he ordered all the women and children to be slaughtered. Of this, Herrera, the official Chronicler of the Conquest, wrote: ‘A feeble excuse to justify cruelty unworthy of a Castilian.’

The toppling of statues associated with slavery and colonialism has been a prominent feature of the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States and Europe, and followed the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes in the wake of Fallist protests at the University of Cape Town.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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