Photo: Christopher Columbus
Puerto Rico is working discretely on the installation of a monumental likeness of Christopher Columbus that will stand as high as the Statue of Liberty.
The enclave selected for the historic project is the municipality of Arecibo, on the island’s northern coast. The statue - which is 90 meters (295 feet) high, weighs 600 tons and was crafted by Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli - will be erected on one of the beaches there.
Businessman Jose Gonzalez Freire, the owner of the land, has taken the reins of the project with which he intends to attract one million visitors a year to the site, which possesses great natural beauty but is far removed from the island’s normal tourist areas.
The start of the phase in which the pieces of the statue - constructed of bronze in 1991 - will be assembled, which has not received any publicity to date, brings to an end the statue’s years of moving all around the territory of Puerto Rico searching for a suitable site.
Tsereteli tried to erect it a year after its construction in the continental United States, but authorities there refused to give permission, and eventually the city authorities at Cataño, near San Juan, accepted it, although the lack of funds and public support resulted in its going to Mayagüez, in the extreme western part of the island.
The idea was to raise the monument there simultaneously with the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games held there, but that did not come off as planned.
Finally, Gonzalez Freire told Efe, he reached an agreement with Tsereteli, who paid for part of the millions of dollars the project has cost, an effort that has brought a team of 30 Russians to the island to work on erecting it.
“It will be the largest monument in the American hemisphere,” said Gonzalez Freire, who is convinced that the statue will spur tourist development along that part of Puerto Rico’s northern coast.
He has promised that “the statue will be raised in the summer of 2015.”
The architect charged with setting up the statue is Roberto Alcina, who told Efe that the process is as complex as building a 30-story building.
Alcina emphasized that it is hard to imagine the size of the statue, but as a reference point one must think that it will substantially exceed in size the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.
The architect says that the octogenarian Tsereteli this year will travel to Puerto Rico to supervise the installation and one of his grandchildren has been coming to the island frequently to follow the work firsthand.