The Birds of Peace – Medellín, Colombia - Atlas Obscura
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Medellín, Colombia

The Birds of Peace

Two identical statues by Fernando Botero, one blown to pieces in a terrorist bombing, the other donated as a gift for peace.  

Medellin is chockablock with statues by hometown artist Fernando Botero, famous for his exaggerated, plump bronzes of people and animals. There’s a whole park downtown filled with 23 statues he donated to the city. But Botero’s most poignant statues are several blocks south in gritty San Antonio Plaza. On the right stands a typical Botero bronze, a cartoonishly fat and cheerful bird, standing squatly. On the left a few steps away stands the same statue, blasted to pieces, an enormous hole torn through its abdomen.

In 1995, there was only one bird. In June of that year, 22 pounds of dynamite left at the base of the statue exploded during an outdoor concert, killing 30 and injuring more than 200. The leftist guerrilla group FARC initially took responsibility for the bombing, and claimed it was a message aimed at Colombia’s then-defense minister Fernando Botero Zea, Botero’s son.

FARC said it was seeking to punish Botero Zea for not engaging in peace negotiations with FARC, and that it had only sought to destroy his father’s statue. The bombing came towards the end of Medellin’s era as the world’s most violent city. The violence had mostly subsided after the killing of Pablo Escobar in 1993, and today it’s one of the safest cities in South America.

Botero was defiant about the bombing. In 2000, he donated the identical, undamaged bronze bird. He insisted that the exploded statue remain in the plaza. Today the names of the bombing victims are carved on its base.

Know Before You Go

The statues are located on the east side of the plaza.