Every time I think I’m finished with this story; another chapter gets written.

First, protestors swayed Mexico City to remove a long-standing statue of Columbus owing to his history of abusing natives when he colonized the Americas. A statue paying homage to native women was planned to replace it.

Oh, no, not again

Then another protest erupted when the sculptor picked to create the homage was male, Pedro Reyes. And again, the protestors swayed Mexico City, and Reyes lost the commission. A reported 5,000 indigenous women had petitioned the city to fire Reyes, saying, “A male sculptor should not have the authority to depict indigenous women.”

The women’s petition made clear whose authority they bow to: “We plan on being very vigilant of the entire process and will continue to insist that there be a full participation of native women.” But Claudia Sheinbaum, who runs Mexico City’s government, said at a press conference who the decision-makers would be, citing “scholars, museum leaders, and members of both the local and federal government.” (Noticeably missing from the list are members of the art-making community.

Also native women).

You’ve got to be kidding

But wait, yet another petition has arisen, this one with a whopping 10,00 signatures demanding that the city bring back the statue of Columbus: “The inhabitants of the capital of the country feel outraged and affected by the withdrawal of our historical heritage.” How this story will ever end is anyone’s guess.

For now, the pedestal where the statue of Columbus stood, remains empty. And I’m left wondering why no one in this long developing story has questioned the original complaint that suggested a male artist is incapable of memorializing indigenous women of Mexico. Reyes was born in Mexico City, lives and works there. Or do we think that awarding work to artists should be based on gender?

Meaningful monuments

In case anyone thinks that male monument makers are incapable of memorializing women in meaningful ways, a couple of statues come to mind. Consider Lloyd Lillie’s statues of Abigail Adams in Boston. She was famed as John Adams’ closest advisor when he was president and is deemed one of the U.S. founders.

Lloyd Lillie caught her spirit as an independent thinker by not mounting her on a pedestal. Instead, she stands alongside it with her arms crossed over her chest and her head turned aside in thought.

I’m also thinking of Bruce Wolfe’s life-size statue of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, showing her seated (not unlike Lincoln in his DC memorial) with a pensive air.

And Frederic Auguste Bartholdi did a pretty good job at edifying Lady Liberty, don’t you think? Isn’t it obvious that neither gender nor nationality is a determining factor in an artwork? All the activists in this story need to step down from their soapboxes and think. Come on, folks. We’re better than this.