Christopher Columbus Statue for Puerto Rico

Acknowledged as the discoverer of the New World, Christopher Columbus made an indelible mark in history, and while in the past he may have been hailed as a hero, in more modern times he is seen in a negative light as having brought conflict and genocide to the people of the countries which he discovered. With controversy surrounding the value of his role in the history of Puerto Rico, which he first visited on 19 November 1493, the matter of where his larger-than-life statue should be erected has provoked many strong opinions – both for, but mostly against, erecting the statue at all.

Standing at a height of close to 300 feet (92 meters) and weighing roughly 600 tons (544 metric tons) the bronze statue, dubbed The Great Explorer, was created by Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli in 1991, with the aim of placing it in one of the major cities of the United States. It was reportedly offered to, and rejected by, South Florida, Ohio, New York and Maryland. Other large projects by Tsereteli include the 94 meter high statue of Peter the Great in downtown Moscow, and a 40 foot teardrop suspended in a 106 foot bronze tower, gifted to the US in remembrance of victims of the 9/11 attacks, which now stands on the Hudson River. The statue was given to the Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Rosello in 1998 and is now on the island of Puerto Rico, but still in a disassembled state, and without a permanent home.

Once installed, the likeness of Christopher Columbus will be the tallest structure in the Caribbean region, as well as being ranked along with the world’s tallest statues. If the mayor of Arecibo gets his way, the statue will stand on Puerto Rico’s north coast, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The town has applied for, and reportedly received, clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to erect the statue – a matter that had to be addressed as the height of the statue may interfere with air traffic. Although many agree with outspoken activist Cristina Rivera that the statue is a “monstrosity” and an “exaggerated piece of work”, it could nonetheless be a valuable tourist attraction, which has authorities in different regions of Puerto Rico requesting the statue be erected in the areas under their jurisdiction. But for now, the statue of Christopher Columbus lies in pieces waiting for acceptance.