The statue of Juan Ponce de León, the first governor of Puerto Rico, has been demolished at dawn this Monday in Old San Juan, the historic center of the Caribbean capital. However, it will be placed again in the next few hours, in time for the visit of the King of Spain Felipe VI.
The mayor of San Juan, Miguel Romero, has lamented the event and has reported after visiting the Plaza San José, where the statue has been located since the end of the 19th century, which will be repaired and placed in its place during this day. “The base is going to be prepared, the bolts and it’s a matter of reassembling it. It’s not complicated at all,” Romero pointed out.
The mayor has described the destruction of the statue as “a criminal act” and has assured that “the event is already being investigated” to identify those responsible through the security cameras.
The Boriken Libertarian Forces independence group has claimed responsibility for the attack as a protest against the royal presence. In a statement, this independence movement has stated: “Given the supposed visit of the King of Spain, Felipe VI, to Puerto Rico and the escalation of gringo invaders seizing our lands, we want to send a clear message: neither kings nor gringo invaders; Borikén is ours. Juan Ponce de León, who was the first governor imposed by the tyranny of Spain more than 500 years ago, represents the worst.”
The Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) has also rejected the arrival of the monarch. “The king himself has said that he is accompanied by a group of businessmen who, benefiting from Laws 20 and 22, have the purpose of meeting with officials of the Government of Puerto Rico to, like other rich foreigners, come to enjoy the outrageous privileges tax and other benefits provided by said laws”.
According to the PIP leader, these privileges continue to be excluded for the communities of small and medium-sized Puerto Rican merchants.
From this party they have also criticized that the Spanish Government has awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic by Spain to the governor of the island, Pedro Pierluisi, considering it “undue interference by a country in political affairs of another people” and “a diplomatic irresponsibility on the part of the Spanish Government with respect to what is a recognized international right of all peoples to their self-determination and independence”.
The mayor of Old San Juan considers that the statue has been demolished “to attract attention”
The official considers that the “act of vandalism” was carried out “to draw attention” and “to justify the unjustifiable.” “We are going to mount it today. People can protest, they can express their opinions, what should not be space is for criminal acts and there will not be,” he stressed.
As has been verified, the statue of the Spanish conqueror, located in Plaza San José, one of the most central in the Puerto Rican capital, was collapsed and fractured when it fell from the pedestal on which it was located. The statue, as a result of the fall, has been divided into its trunk and legs, while part of the pedestal was also fractured into multiple pieces.
The event took place hours before the arrival in San Juan of Felipe VI, who begins an official visit to Puerto Rico this Monday with which he seeks to strengthen bilateral trade and support the legacy of centuries of Spanish presence on the island on the occasion of the 500 years of the founding of the capital.
Felipe VI’s visit to Puerto Rico begins this Monday
Felipe VI begins a brief official visit to the island with an agenda that includes a reception at the Casa de España in Old San Juan, near where the collapsed statue is located. The monarch makes this visit in response to the invitation of the mayor of San Juan, founded by the Spanish in 1521.
The mayor has assured that the first consequences of the act of vandalism will be to allocate funds to fix it, that it will come from the citizens’ taxes and that the investigation is already in charge of the Property Division of the Criminal Investigation Corps (CIC) of San Juan .
The monarch arrives on the island with a view to strengthening cultural ties, but, especially, to balance a very favorable trade balance for this Commonwealth to the US.
Juan Ponce de León, born in Santervás de Campos (Valladolid) in April 1460, was the first ruler of Puerto Rico and conqueror of Florida.
Acts of hostility towards statues of Spanish conquistadors scattered throughout United States territory had not reached Puerto Rico to date, which has status as a Free Associated State of the United States and in the last referendum, held in 2012, only 4% voted in favor of independence.