Naked Simon Bolivar & Sex Stops Violence

May 2015
Naked Simon Bolivar statue in Pereira ColombiaMichael: I turned to my wife to make sure I’d heard her correctly. She repeated, “You’re going to see naked Simon Bolivar.”

This was my first trip to the coffee growing region of Colombia known as Eje Cafetero. Simon Bolivar I knew as the liberator of the country. He fought to take the land from the Spanish. The guy’s statue is everywhere in Colombia. So, I knew my wife had to be talking about a monument of some kind not an actual man. But when I saw the statue with its size, the detailed work and the energy exuded, it was much more than expected.

Graciela: Naked Simon Bolivar is in the town square of the city of Pereira in the Colombian department of Risaralda.

In 1955 the city mayor commissioned for a statue of the country’s liberator. He told the Colombian sculptor, Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt, that the city needed something different than what everyone else has.

It was 1963 when Arenas Betancourt delivered a 14 ton art piece. He had made the entire statue in Mexico and had it transported by ship to Colombia. Photos of artist and the arrival of his work arriving to Pereira on the back of a truck can be seen here.

Though young and living in Bogotá, I remember the controversy of the statue at the time. It created controversy. People questioned why naked. Many thought the nakedness disrespectful to the liberator of our country.

In the early 1980’s that I finally saw the statue in person. As an artist I looked at it through an artist’s eyes. It is a fantastic sculpture. I marveled at the muscles and the veins. In my opinion, especially with his position on the horse, the sculpture evokes the brave determined man that Simon Bolivar was.

Michael: The name of Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt may sound familiar. He is recognized as one of the most important Latin American sculptors. Many of his pieces are located around Colombia. His largest work is Monumento a los Lanceros which is 33 meters high.

Besides the statue, the city of Pereira is known for something else, the part the women played in reducing violence. What they did is called in Spanish “La Huelga de Piernas Cruzadas.” In English that translates to “The Strike of Crossed Legs.” John Timpane wrote on that it was a heroic protest by the women. The security chief for the city at the time commended the women for tackling crime with “noble weapons.” For the Center for Homicide Research, Patricia Poyer wrote “Sex Strikes: Boycotting Sex as a Homicide Prevention Tactic.” In her well documented paper in PDF format she concludes, “Sex strikes can be considered effective tools for homicide prevention when used in conjunction with other efforts.”

In 2005 the murder rate in Pereira had escalated to an all time high. The women banded together to withhold sex to stop the fighting by their husbands and boyfriends. According to the above mentioned writing by Poyer the homicide rate declined over 26%.

Thank you to the ladies for helping made it a safe place to visit. I enjoyed my time there and found many interesting things to see in addition to naked Simon Bolivar.

**Graciela: My recommendation is that you take any opportunity to see the statue. It truly is a unique work of art. Not to mention that the surrounding Eje Cafetero area is beautiful.