Demolition crews started tearing down on Friday morning one of Bogotá’s most famous landmarks – Monumento a Los Héroes – and which has stood at the intersection of Calle 80 with Avenida Caracas since 1963. The monument to Simon Bolívar’s independence campaign, was also a memorial to the many battalions, including British Legion, that fought alongside The Liberator.
The decision to destroy a monument that was erected in 1910 as a stone pedestal with an equestrian statue by the French sculptor Emmanuel Fremiet, and five decades later, extended to include a six-story high tower designed by the Italian architect Angiolo Mazzoni, pitched the country’s Defense Minister Diego Molano against Mayor Claudia López. The monument originally was going to be relocated with the construction of the First Line of the Bogotá Metro, and the decision handed down from the previous administration of Mayor Enrique Peñalosa.
The events, however, of the three-month-long national strike – paro nacional – in which thousands of anti-government protestors gathered at Los Héroes, resulted in excessive vandalism to the stone edifice. The equestrian statue, however, was salvaged by the Ministry of Culture after vandals lit burning cauldrons beneath the iron horse.
Molano, in a letter to López, offered government support for relocating the monument to Calle 72, but keeping “the same original characteristics and dimensions.” But the monument appeared too far gone to save. Staunch critics of Mayor López and inaction by district authorities to prevent the monument from being destroyed by vandals in the first place wasted no time on social media venting dismay and anger over the demolition.
“The Mayor tramples on Colombians, our history and Bogotá citizens kidnapped by her incapacity,” stated Miguel Uribe Turbay, a former Mayoral candidate and member of the right-wing Centro Democrático party. “The Monument to the Heroes of Independence survived 58 years after its inauguration, but it did not survive two years of Claudia López,” stated Juan José Lafaurie, son of conservative Senator María Fernanda Cabal. Minister Molano took a more conciliatory tone, reminding López that the monument is a “symbol of great importance, not only for our soldiers and, therefore, for the Ministry of National Defense, but for all Colombians.”
A design model of the new Los Héroes monument was released Friday by Metro de Bogotá, while what has increasingly become an eye-sore for Bogotá slowly vanished from sight, one brick at a time.