HAVANA – A replica of the equestrian statue of Cuban independence hero Jose Marti in New York arrived in Havana and was erected in the city’s historic downtown area as a symbol of the bridges existing between Cuba and the United States despite the chilling of bilateral relations over the past few months.
The raising of the statue caps 22 years of efforts by the Havana Historian’s Office to obtain a copy of that work by US sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, which shows Marti on horseback being dealt a mortal wound in the 1895 battle of Dos Rios in the Cuban war of independence.
Its arrival “reaffirms that beyond the mistakes and erratic policies of those trying to break down bridges and communications, there exists among nations and among people what Benito Juarez so passionately noted: Respect for the rights of others is peace,” Havana historian Eusebio Leal told the press Friday.
The man of letters and liberator Jose Marti (1853-1895) is the historical figure most venerated by Cubans.
This is the only existing equestrian statue of Marti. The bronze sculpture is 5.63 meters (17½ feet) tall, weights 8.5 tons, was completed when the sculptor was 82 years old and was inspired by a painting by Esteban Valderrama, which no longer eists.
“The hero appears ennobled by the idea that he will give his life for a just and exceptional cause. He had said that “death is not real when a person’s life’s work has been well done,” Leal said with reference to this monument “so full of poetry and beauty.”
The original stands in a small square in New York’s Central Park with the monuments of other independence heroes of the Americas, Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin, at the beginning of Avenue of the Americas.
Leal recalled that the original statue, a gift to the United States by the Caribbean country’s government at the time, was scheduled to be inaugurated on Oct. 10, 1959, but the victory of the revolution led by Fidel Castro “caused the ceremony to be suspended.” The statue was inaugurated in 1965.
Its replica for Havana, which has the same black granite base and inscriptions as the one in New York, arrived in Cuba early this October and now stands in Trece de Marzo Park, a place with “great significance,” looking out to sea and close to the monument to Maximo Gomez, generalissimo of the Liberation Army.
Marti lived 15 years in the United States and had close ties with many Americans, which is one reason Leal wanted the statue to be a reference to the harmony between the two countries, now seemingly threatened by the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House.