Mexico City Residents Suspect Foul Play in Plan to Move 'Diana'

Mexicans have bigger issues to think about than moving a statue. Why the fuss over a mythical huntress?

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Mexicans have a lot on their minds these days: an economic crash that has devastated dreams of better living conditions, police corruption that adds insult to the injury of a rising crime rate, and now a new guerrilla group that says it wants to overthrow the government.

Despite all this, however, some Mexico City residents are finding enough outrage left over to loudly oppose a proposal to move a bronze statue of the mythical Diana from the traffic circle she dominates on the city's famed Paseo de la Reforma. The plan, part of a larger project to redo the Mexican capital's signature avenue, calls for moving the statue to a new perch in nearby Chapultepec Park.

A recent poll revealed that 92 percent of city residents surveyed want Jupiter's daughter to stay where she is.

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Many of Diana's supporters say the seriousness of Mexico's problems is one of the reasons they oppose moving the graceful statue, which dates from 1942.

"With all the problems we have, and the little money we have to solve them, why come up with such a costly plan when the Diana is very nice right here?" says Pedro Olivares, an art gallery owner having his shoes shined within sight of the bow-wielding huntress. "If they are set on doing something, they should fix up our beloved Reforma, its benches and gardens, because sadly it is in bad shape."

But lurking just under the surface of the opposition is also a hefty reserve of distrust of just about anything the government in Mexico proposes to do. With the recent news dominated by tales of animal feed sold to feed the poor through a government food program, milk watered down to boost dairy-company profits - not to mention the saga of Ral Salinas, brother of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, now in jail under suspicion of murder, illegal enrichment, drug trafficking, and various corrupt practices - it's as understandable as it is sad that people are so suspicious.

IF some officials came up with a plan to move the Diana from a perfectly good spot, the reasoning among passersby and nearby shop owners goes, then it can only be because they stand to profit handsomely from it.

"It's just a way to spend the money they are robbing from us," says Morena Malfatti, who along with her husband owns a photo shop on Reforma near the Diana. "They've moved the Diana before, and every time it's money in their pockets - from the construction company, moving company, cement and steel companies," she adds. "It's all corruption."

Actually the project, proposed by the city's Paseo de la Reforma Monuments Advisory Commission, doesn't sound so sinister. The commission's idea is to make Reforma into a historical sculpture promenade. So statues already occupying other traffic circles that come out of Mexico's history - one of Cuauhtmoc, the Aztecs' last emperor; one of Christopher Columbus; and the famed gilt Angel of Independence - would stay.

But Diana and a tall palm tree at two other intersections would go to make way for new sculptures: one commemorating revered Mexican leader Benito Juarez and one celebrating Mexico's "fusion of cultures."

The idea doesn't seem to sway anyone. "I've read about it, but I've also heard that the woman who modeled for the Diana is old now, so the story of this Diana is now our history," says Carmen Ortz, who works in a bank overlooking the Diana.

Others argue that the palm tree slated to be moved should also remain where it is as a symbol of nature's place in Mexico's development.

But mostly, Diana's defenders come around to the same conclusion: The plan to move her makes so little sense, they say, that it must be about making some politician somewhere a lot of money.

"Look, the last time they moved Diana away from here, [Carlos] Hank Gonzlez was regent [mayor]" in the 1970s, says Mr. Luna, the photo shop owner. "In her place we got a vulgar, poorly built fountain we called the 'car wash' because it sprayed water everywhere.

"Ah, but Hank Gonzlez," he adds, referring to the onetime agriculture teacher who over two decades of the best government connections has risen to sit among Mexico' s multibillionaires. "We all know where he ended up."

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