By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla
Mexico City, Aug 25 (EFE).- Dozens of restorers are urgently working to repair the earthquake damage and weather-related wear-and-tear suffered by the Mexican capital’s Angel of Independence landmark, an around-the-clock effort aimed at getting it ready for next month’s bicentennial celebration.
“This is our country’s main symbol of independence. In that sense, the entire monument must be ready by those dates,” said Roberto Sanchez, a member of the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Engineering Institute and the person in charge of the architectural renovation project.
While a group of technicians gradually dismantle the more than 40-meter-long (131-foot-long) scaffolding that has surrounded the iconic monument for the past two years, the restoration team hammers out the final details of its relief sculptures with a view to having the work completed by Sept. 1, the start of a month of celebrations to mark 200 years since the country achieved independence from Spain.
“This last stage has been especially stressful because they’re now taking down the scaffolding, and restorers are still working. We’re moving at a hectic pace,” the engineer added.
El Angel, as it is known locally, consists of a steel, stone-covered victory column that is crowned by a bronze, gold-covered statue of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.
Inaugurated in 1910 by dictator Porfirio Diaz to commemorate the centennial of the start of Mexico’s 11-year War of Independence, it was later made into a mausoleum that pays tribute to the heroes of that conflict.
Over time, that monument located at a roundabout on downtown Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma thoroughfare and designed by Antonio Rivas Mercado has become a setting for spontaneous soccer celebrations and protests, as well as a favored spot for tourist “selfies.”
Perched at a height of 45 meters, the winged statue has been witness to key events of Mexican history for more than a century, including a powerful 1957 earthquake that sent it crashing to the ground.
After that episode, the interior of the column was reinforced with a metal tube that held up for several decades until it suffered cracking in a potent Sept. 19, 2017, temblor.
Sanchez acknowledged that the renovation work began late and lasted longer than expected due to administrative and technical problems and the Covid-19 pandemic, but he said the effort has been worth it.
“The structural issue has been taken care of,” the engineer said, adding that the monument has been reinforced to ensure it can resist earthquakes in the future.
The final remaining details correspond to aesthetic aspects, particularly the heavy wear-and-tear suffered by the column’s reliefs due to rain, wind and pollution.
Several parts of the monument had been badly degraded, including its eagles, which had lost their wings, talons and plumage since the most recent restoration 15 years ago. Letters also were missing from the names of the heroes of independence.
The Nike statue, however, has been left untouched because it had not suffered any significant damage.
The scaffolding is to be completely removed on Thursday, although work still remains to fix up the flower beds at the base of the column.
Some messages written at the bottom of the monument during a huge feminist march two years ago, including “Cerdos policias” (Police pigs) and “Mexico feminista” (Feminist Mexico), will be removed.
But the restorers will leave others intact as a reminder of the role that 111-year-old monument has played as a gathering point for celebrations and protests. EFE