Juan Ponce de León statue came down hours before king arrives on island to mark 500 years since founding of capital San Juan
A statue of the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León has been toppled in Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, hours before a visit to the Caribbean island by Spain’s King Felipe VI.
The capital’s mayor, Miguel Romero, criticized the incident on Monday as an “act of vandalism” in remarks to news outlet El Nuevo Día, but sought to downplay the significance of the incident and the extent of the damage.
“Some individuals approached the statue”, located in a square in the historic center of San Juan, and “caused damage”, according to a police report quoted by local media.
Felipe VI was due later on Monday in Puerto Rico, a US territory, to mark the 500th anniversary of San Juan’s founding.
The city’s origins date back to 1521, but the official celebrations were delayed due to the Covid
Authorities indicated they were looking at security camera footage to help identify those responsible for damaging the statue.
Local media reported that a group known as the Boriken Libertarian Forces has claimed responsibility.
“Faced with the visit of the King of Spain, Felipe VI, to Puerto Rico and the escalation of ‘gringo’ invaders taking over our lands, we want to send a clear message: neither kings nor ‘gringo’ invaders,” the group wrote in a statement.
Ponce de León undertook a royal mission in 1508 to explore and colonize the island, which the native Taino inhabitants called Boriken. He eventually became Puerto Rico’s first governor.
The statue was forged in 1882 in New York, with bronze obtained from British cannons captured after a failed attack on the Spanish in Puerto Rico in 1797.