Fernando Botero’s El Pájaro Monument, Medellín

One of Botero’s fat birds installed in the square

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Revered as “the most Colombian of Colombian artists”, Fernando Botero was probably the most illustrious artist South America has ever produced, leaving an indelible mark on the global art scene. Among Botero’s lesser-known works is a pair of portly parrots in his hometown of Medellín. In stark contrast to their unassuming appearance, the two birds pay tribute to one of Colombia’s darkest chapters in recent history.

There is probably no other South American artist who has garnered as much fame and honor as Colombia-born sculptor Fernando Botero. His distinctive plump statues can be found all over the world, including New York City, Paris and of course, his birthplace – Medellín, where a series of 23 sculpture he donated adorn the eponymous Plaza Botero.


A mere 700 meters to the south, in Parque San Antonio, lies a far lesser-known cluster of Botero’s works, almost entirely devoid of like-hungry Instagrammers. Scattered throughout the expansive square are 4 bronze sculptures; a clothless male torso, a curvy lady reclining on her pedestal and a pair of thick-bodied birds, one of which is completely ruptured, featuring a large hole in its belly.


As it turns out, the parrot’s disfigured look isn’t an artistic whim but rather the result of one of the most harrowing tragedies that befell Medellín. On the night of June 10th, 1995, the very same plaza was brimming with hundreds of visitors who attended a local craft market as part of the “Cartagena Contigo” celebrations.


Unfortunately though, the joyous atmosphere was abruptly shattered when a powerful blast rocked the plaza, resulting in 23 fatalities, over 200 injuries and the complete deformation of Botero’s sculpted parrot.


At first, everyone was quick to blame the country’s notorious drug cartels, yet shortly thereafter, the jungle-dwelling guerilla group FARC claimed responsibility for the attack, asserting that it was symbolically targeted against Botero as his son, Fernando Botero Zea, served as the minister of defense during that time.


In the wake of the carnage, Botero was determined to retaliate in own creative way. Five years after the bombing took place, he erected an exact replica of the chubby bird, merely a few meters shy of her heavily damaged sibling which remained at the square in memory of those who lost their lives in the bombing. In fact, the fractured sculpture sits atop a pinch, whose front is inscribed with names of victims.


Fernando Botero passed away in 2023 at the age of 91 following a long career that made him synonymous with the city he loved so much. While he might no longer be with us, his legacy nonetheless is very much alive and kicking as evident by his copious artworks across Medellín.