05 Mar 2018

Barcelona brings down statue of slave trafficker

Following requests from the civil society, Barcelona no longer commemorates Marquis de Comillas, a 1800s businessman and slave trafficker. 

Tonina Alomar
Tonina Alomar NewsMavens, Spain
Source: El Pais
Barcelona brings down statue of slave trafficker - NewsMavens
Antonio López y López, 1er Marqués de Comillas. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Last summer, we saw statues of slave owners brought down in the US, UK or South America. We are now witnessing a similar phenomenon in Barcelona, where the mayor has decided to take down the statue of Antonio Lopez, Marquis de Comillas.

Known for creating the Transatlantic Company, Hispanic Colonial Bank and the Philippine Tobacco Company -- all crucial businesses during the colonial period -- Lopez was considered to be one of the most astute businessmen and philanthropists in Spain. A lesser known fact is that, to build this empire, he had a parallel slave trade business.

But he was not the only one who had build his fortune on slave work.

Catalan anthropologist Gustavo Nerín claims that any fortune born around the 1830s in Spain is very likely to have originated from slavery.

Until recently, Spain was bringing down monuments of the dictatorship period but not of the colonial times. This case thus marks a significant step towards reassessing Spain’s colonial past, as well as our role in the slave trade.

race, politics, education

Details from the story:

  • On Sunday, March 4, Barcelona City Council took down the statue of Antonio López, Marques de Comillas, a businessman who trafficked african slaves to Cuba.
  • The City Council responded to the demands of citizens' organizations, which, for decades, had been requesting the removal of the monument.
  • The statue will be now kept in the Collections Center of Barcelona's History Museum.
  • The square, where the statue used to be located, will be renamed. It will commemorate Idrissa Diallo from Senegal, who died in the Foreigners Internment Center in Barcelona, in 2012.
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