Tuesday, February 07, 2012

"Estela de Luz"

If Mexico's bicentennial tower knew what people were saying, it might slink off and hide (if 341 feet of stone could skulk, that is).

Since opening last month, the soaring twin slabs made of translucent quartz panels have been scrutinized, argued over and widely jeered. Some people already want to tear the monument down.

A primary source of anger is that the Estela de Luz, or Pillar of Light, was unveiled 16 months after the anniversary it was built to commemorate. By the time its lights were flipped on, the Sept. 16, 2010, bicentennial was a distant memory, and work still wasn't done.

Added to the delays, the structure came in so far over budget that some members of Congress have called for an investigation. The original architect, Cesar Perez Becerril, has alleged official corruption and complained that his vision was ruined by design changes after he was replaced and construction was underway.

Officials defend spending about three times the projected price, saying they had to bolster the monument against earthquakes. And anyway, they insist, it's really, really pretty.

Education Secretary Alonso Lujambio, who oversaw bicentennial events, declared the pale pillar "emblematic" of Mexican architecture and said it would be "admired by Mexicans today and in 50, 100, 200 years, because its beauty is extraordinary and because it truly symbolizes a historic moment for Mexico." Lujambio took leave last month, citing illness.

Nonetheless, many Mexicans can't get past the price tag of about $79 million.

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