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Puerto Rico questions Spain’s legacy as statues tumble across U. S.


Activists demand that monuments to Columbus and Ponce de León be removed as symbols of oppression.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Statues, street names, plazas and even the body of conquistador Juan Ponce de León himself: Spain left a nearly indelible legacy in Puerto Rico that attracts hordes of tourists every year, but some activists are trying to erase it as they join a U. S. movement to eradicate symbols of oppression.
Dozens of activists marched through the historic part of Puerto Rico’s capital on Saturday, some wearing traditional Taino clothing as they banged on drums and blew on conch shells to demand that the U. S. territory’s government start by removing statues including those of explorer Christopher Columbus.
“These statues represent all that history of violence, of invasion, of looting, of theft, of murder,” said an activist who goes by the name of Pluma and is a member of Puerto Rico’s Council for the Defense of Indigenous Rights. “These are crimes against humanity.”
Columbus landed in Puerto Rico in 1493 accompanied by Spaniard Ponce de León, who later became the island’s first governor and quelled an uprising by the native Tainos, a subgroup of the Arawak Indians. Historians and anthropologists believe that up to 60,000 Tainos lived in Puerto Rico at the time, but they were soon forced into labor and succumbed to infectious disease outbreaks.

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