Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bolivar on Horseback

It's strange how life leads you back to forgotten images. Today's photo was taken last May when I was introducing New York City -- and at this moment, Central Park -- to my sister for the first time.

In response to the news of Venezuela President Hugo Chávez's death, The Washington Post reporter Clinton Yates in his "Lunchline" newsletter today pointed readers to an old Christopher Hitchens' column  that recounts the writer's first encounter with Chávez during a 2008 visit to Venezuela.

Apparently, Chávez was obsessed with Simón Bolívar, the man depicted in this statue located near Central Park. Chávez went to great lengths to associate himself with Bolivar's legacy, even drawing the connection that he was the reincarnation of  legendary revolutionary. Strange behavior for a very strange, polarizing man.

For those unfamiliar with South American history, Simón Bolívar (1783-1830) was born in Venezuela in 1783 and became one of the continent’s greatest generals before he died in 1830. Known as El Liberator,  his victories over Spaniards won independence for Bolivia (the country was named in his honor), Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

The sculpture, which stands 15 feet tall on a 16 foot pedestal, depicts Bolívar sitting resolutely on his horse. The bronze coats-of-arms on the pedestal represent all of the South American countries for which he helped win independence. This is one of a trio of bronze equestrian sculptures representing Latin-American leaders located at entrances of Central Park.

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