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Iconoclastic Protesters

Historical revisionism, if it wants to do justice, must take into account the different epochs.

There have always been iconoclastic fanatics throughout history, but today the demolition of statues has become somewhat compulsive. A few demagogic notions of the past are enough (“Learn universal history in five minutes”) to become pathologically intolerant in search of historical revenge. It is the essential characteristic, along with a bad mood and even worse wine, of those who are perpetually offended and want to erase traces of the past.

This week there have been acts of vandalism in different cities in Europe and the United States against statues of Christopher Columbus, Louis XVI, Leopold II of Belgium, the Confederate General Wickham, Edward Colston, Winston Churchill, and even Abraham Lincoln. Amid the confusion, cries such as “racists” and “slavers” were heard. Given the disparity of their victims, explanations are unnecessary, but I think Churchill was rather an elitist (even more unforgivable in these socialist times), who also had a pinch of red skin blood from his mother, an American beauty. Of course, that didn’t stop him from describing Gandhi as “a half-naked faquir.”

Perhaps the old iconoclastic fashion resurfaced with the destruction of the millennial Bamiyan Buddhas, dynamited in 2001 by the Taliban—a term that curiously means “student”—because they considered them a pagan affront to their radical religious interpretation.

Statues of Lenin were also demolished by the former Soviet Union—but not its mummy: communist fervor seeks to rival the pharaohs—and of Saddam Hussein after that unnecessary war of weapons of mass distraction. In Spain, the statue of General Franco was removed by a socialist government that instead allows communist exaltations. In 2015, it was the turn of the Majorcan Franciscan Fray Junípero Serra, who in the 18th century brought the golden grapes and the missions to California, whose statues in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara were crushed by theoretically indigenous movements.

“Fanaticism can catch on when you least expect it.”

I remember the first time I noticed such an aesthetic horror of the past while walking through ardent Lima in search of the perfect pisco sour. It was not difficult, since in Lima good bars abound. The impossible was to see a sculpture of the conqueror Pizarro in any plaza. Then a lovely Limeña explained it to me: “We have exiled him to a discreet corner of the cemetery, so as not to hurt susceptibilities.” Coño, the world has indeed become susceptible!

In “lindo y querido” Mexico there is also love and hatred for the statues of Hernán Cortés, who was able to conquer the Aztec empire thanks to his romance with La Malinche (they had a son together). She was a proud and very intelligent Indian woman, an interpreter who gave Cortés essential advice to defeat Moctezuma. Possibly La Malinche was also very fed up with so many human sacrifices.

The rejection of the Spanish past in America spread after the Wars of Independence in the 19th century. I can understand that they did not want to pay taxes to the Crown, but I am surprised that they deny their own blood. In Peru and Mexico, as in so many other parts of the New World, there was a wonderful crossbreeding between Indians, whites, blacks, and even Chinese. But the [ … ]

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