NYC Hispanic Art and Landmarks
A Guide to Masterpieces and Monuments
Statue of Jose Martí
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