LIMA – The memory of Francisco Pizarro is fading in the city he founded 482 years ago, a process symbolized by the removal of the equestrian monument of the Spanish conquistador from a privileged spot in the center of the Peruvian capital.
The statue, created by US sculptor Charles Rumsey, spurred debate from the day it was installed in Lima, Jan. 18, 1935, and has been moved three times since then, each time farther from the city center.
Its first home was in the atrium of the main cathedral.
Peru’s Catholic hierarchy and many of the faithful objected to the presence of a monument to a man not known for his Christian virtues and in 1952, then-Mayor Luis Dibos had the statue moved to a spot alongside Government Palace on Plaza de Armas, the capital’s main square.
“The new location also provoked criticism, as major newspapers protested because Dibos ordered the demolition of one of the oldest Spanish homes in the city to make room for the statue,” cultural critic Victor Vich told EFE.
In 1997, city councilman Santiago Augusto Calvo – an architect – revived initiatives to have the monument removed from Plaza de Armas.
“The city council approved the removal, but it didn’t happen because there was yet another discussion about replacing it with a less bellicose figure, without the unsheathed sword, one depicting Pizarro as a founder,” historian and Lima Municipal Library director Sandro Covarrubias told EFE.
In the wee hours of April 23, 2003, workers removed the statue from Plaza de Armas and took it to a municipal warehouse.
“The National Culture Institute authorized the removal and, although there were those who criticized the measure, it was widely accepted by the people,” Covarrubias said.
After 17 months gathering dust at the warehouse, the Pizarro monument was taken to Parque de la Muralla, which overlooks the Rimac River in Lima’s old quarter.
The controversies reflect two divergent attitudes toward Pizarro: “one defending him as the embodiment of the modern and multi-cultural Peru, and the other arguing that he founded an exclusive society that has had serious consequences even in the present,” Vich said.