THE HISTORY OF U.S. HISPANICS/LATINOS
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The a bronze equestrian statue of Cuban writer and patriot José Martí, on Central Park South and Avenue of the Americas, depicts the moment when he was shot and killed in the battle of Dos Ríos, Santiago de Cuba, on May 19, 1895, at the start of the Cuban War of Independence, better known here as the Spanish-American War.
This larger-than-life statue of the “Apostle of Cuban Independence” is one of three monuments dedicated to prominent Latin-American leaders in the "Bolivar Plaza" entrance to Central Park, where Martí rides besides Venezuela's Simon Bolivar and Argentina's José de San Martín.
Many New Yorkers pass by these three monuments without realizing that they bare stories linking the United States with Latin America. Yet those who take the time contemplate them, and to read the inscriptions on their pedestals, usually walk away inspired by the revolutions they led and the ideals they represented.
Born in Havana on Jan. 28, 1853, Martí was a writer, poet and philosopher who contributed to various journals throughout the Americas, and, while becoming an important figure for the Spanish American literary movement, inspired the revolution that liberated Cuba from Spain.
His writings in defense of liberty were inspirational to many, not only in Cuba, but throughout the Americas. But he was imprisoned by Spanish authorities in 1868 and eventually forced into exile in 1880 -- in New York City, where he lived the last and most productive 15 years of his life.
From his Greenwich village apartment, with a lot more freedom to write, Martí organized the Cuban Revolutionary Party (1892) and became the mastermind of the revolution that eventually freed the island. Unfortunately, Martí did not live long enough to see a free Cuba.
Feeling the need to lead by example, although not a military man, Martí returned to fight for Cuba's freedom and was promptly shot and killed by Spanish troops at Dos Ríos, Santiago de Cuba on May 19, 1895.
The Central Park monument, created by American sculptor Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington, illustrates a staggering yet determined Martí after being fatally wounded while atop his horse during the 1895 battle. Vaughn Hyatt Huntington, who completed 18.6 feet bronze statue at the age of 82, bestowed the statue as a gift to the Cuban government for presentation to the people of New York City. The Cuban government then donated the monument’s dark granite 16.5 feet pedestal with the words “Apostle of Cuban Independence, Leader of The Peoples of America and Defender of Human Dignity. His Literacy Genius Vied With His Political Foresight." The monument was erected in 1965 -- at the Manhattan corner where Central Park South meets the Avenue of the Americas.
By Dahianna Feliciano, Lehman College
Spanish War Memorial
The Spanish War Memorial, dedicated to the American soldiers from the Bronx who lost their lives during the Spanish American War, is a 31-foot tall granite column topped by a globe, at Graham Triangle, on the corner of 137th Street, Third Avenue, and Lincoln Avenue in the Bronx.
The column's pedestal has a plaque cast from the metal recovered from the U.S.S Maine, the American battleship that mysteriously exploded and sank in Havana Harbor and ignited U.S. involvement in the Cuba's War of Independence from Spain.
While in Cuba to protect American interests on the revolution-torn island, the Maine was sabotaged on February 15, 1898. The explosion killed 268 crew members. Since they failed to identify the cause of the explosion, the United states blamed Spain and declared war on April 25, 1898.
Less than four months later, the United States had defeated Spain and the Spanish American War came to an end with the Treaty of Paris, which allowed Cuba to gain its independence and forced Spain to give up Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States.
The engraving on the pedestal of the Spanish War Memorial notes that it is dedicated, "To the brave men of Bronx Borough who gave their lives for their country in the war with Spain." The bas-relief plaque, was created by sculptor Chrales Keck, is identical to the one at the USS Maine National Monument, on the southwest corner entrance to Central Park. It notes that the monument was erected "In Memoriam, U.S.S. Maine, Destroyed in Havana Harbor, February 15th 1898 - This tablet is cast from metal recovered from the U.S.S. Maine."
Erected in 1919, The Spanish War Memorial has stood on Grahman Triangle -- corner of 137th Street, Third Avenue, and Lincoln Avenue -- for almost a century.
By Maira Cardenas, Lehman College
The Statue of Roberto Clemente, depicting the Puerto Rican baseball superstar saluting his fans after hitting his 3,000 hit in 1972, is at Roberto Clemente State Park, at West 179th St. and West Tremont Ave. in the Bronx.
But reaching that amazing mark, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA., on Sept. 3, 1972, doesn't say enough about Clemente's even more amazing career. He was an All Star for 12 seasons. He was the most valuable player in 1966 and the batting leader in 1961, 1964, 1965 and 1967. He was a Gold Glove winner 12 consecutive seasons from 1961 to 1972. His batting average was over 300 in 13 seasons. Clemente was the first Puerto Rican player to help win a World Series as a starter, in 1960. He also received a World Series MVP Award in 1971.
Clemente is the pride of the Puerto Rican community. Roberto Enrique Clemente Walker was born on August 18,1934 in Barrio San Anton, Carolina, Puerto Rico, to Don Melchor Clemente and Doña Luisa Walker. He started his professional baseball career in 1952, at the age of 18, with the Cangrejeros de Santurce, a winter league team and franchise of the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League. From Santurce he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers and was assigned to play their top affiliate the Montreal Royals. In 1954 Clemente was the first pick of the draft for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He joined the Pirates in 1955.
He was married in 1964. He and his wife had three boys. Sadly, Clemente was killed in a plane crash in the Atlantic Ocean on Dec. 31, 1972, after taking off from Isla Verde, Puerto Rico to take aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. In 1973, waiving a five-year retirement period, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet, being a superstar and dying on a humanitarian mission, Clemente's image transcended baseball.
In 1974, the one-year-old "Harlem River Park" was renamed "Roberto Clemente State Park" -- alongside the Harlem River at West 179th St. and West Tremont Ave. An annual "Roberto Clemente Week" recognizing the life of both the talented right fielder and the humanitarian gentleman, is celebrated with a series of special events at the park. The Roberto Clemente Statue, created by sculptor Maritza Rodriguez and donated by Goya Foods, was erected on in the park's recreational playground on July 5, 2013.
By Melissa Trinidad, Lehman College