Two years ago, activists marched through the streets of Old San Juan as they joined a U.S. movement to eradicate symbols of oppression and demanded that Spain’s legacy in Puerto Rico be erased. While some statues have been defaced with graffiti, police said this is the first time such a statue was toppled.
A statue of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León was toppled from its perch in the Old Town of San Juan, Puerto Rico, hours before the arrival there of Felipe VI, king of the island’s former colonial master, Spain, AP reports.
Officers patrolling the cobblestone streets of the capital’s historic district heard a loud bang at 4:30 a.m. and found the broken statue. “It sounded like an explosion,” said Col. José Juan García, San Juan’s police chief.
The statue was made of steel melted from British cannons and featured the Spanish explorer facing south with his left hand on his hip and right finger pointed toward the first settlement he founded on the island. The ruins still mark the spot of the island’s first Spanish capital and is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. The statue also points in the direction of the nearby San Juan Bautista Cathedral that holds Ponce de León’s remains and is a popular tourist spot.
“Opinions are to be respected,” said San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero. “What we’re not going to tolerate is vandalism. The Spaniards from 500 years ago are not the same ones of today,” he added.
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