Sculptor Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington (1876–1973) created this, her last major work, as a commemoration to Cuban patriot and author José Martí (1853–1895). Hyatt Huntington completed this piece when she was 82, and presented it as a gift to the Cuban government for presentation to the people of New York City. Hyatt Huntington also created the Joan of Arc (1411–1431) bronze equestrian sculpture in Manhattan’s Riverside Park (1915).
The sculpture was completed in 1959, but the tense political climate in the country in general, and New York in particular, delayed the unveiling until 1965. Martí campaigned for the liberation of Cuba from Spain and was imprisoned by Spanish authorities in 1868. Fleeing to New York in 1880, he continued to advocate for Cuban freedom while in exile. The piece is one of a trio of bronze equestrian sculptures representing Latin-American leaders that greet visitors to Central Park at the north end of Avenue of the Americas, which was named in 1945 at the suggestion of Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1882–1947) to honor Pan-American ideals and principles. Following the renaming of Sixth Avenue, a new plaza was designed where the avenue meets Central Park. Sally Farnham‘s monument to Simon Bolivar (1783–1830) was moved to the eastern side of the plaza and rededicated. A month later the statue of Argentine general José de San Martín (1778–1850) was unveiled on the west side of the plaza, and in 1965, the Marti monument was dedicated between the two earlier works. The Central Park Conservancy conserved the Martí monument in 1992 using funds raised by Cuban-Americans from throughout the United States.
photo: José Martí Monument, Central Park, New York, NY