For the introductory blog post to San Diego’s historical landmarks, click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 1
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 2
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 3
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 4
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 5
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 6
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 7
Next up on our west to east meandering on El Prado is a guy on a horse. Looks like this:
That, my friends, is El Cid, neé Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (1043-1099), a Castilian nobleman born in Vivar del Cid and military leader in medieval Spain. He was raised in the court of the Spanish Emperor Ferdinand the Great. El Cid became famous for his military prowess and helped enlarge Castilian territory at the expense of the Muslims. El Cid remains an idealized figure in Spain, and has been immortalized in plays, film, folk tales, and songs, most notably “El Cid,” a 1961 film starring Charlton Heston.
So why do we have a larger-than-life statue of El Cid in San Diego’s Balboa Park? El Cid died almost 450 years before San Diego was founded by Juan Cabrillo.
Well, it turns out that there actually are three El Cid Campeador statues like this one, the other two being in San Francisco and Buenos Aires. The first El Cid Campeador statue was a 1927 bronze sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973), one of New York City’s most prominent sculptors. In 1932, she became the first woman artist elected to the American Academy of Arts and letters.
That first El Cid Campeador was installed in Seville, Spain, in 1927. The El Cid Campeador statue in Balboa Park was donated by Mrs. Huntington in 1930 through the Hispanic Society of America.
The Hispanic Society of America was founded by Anna’s husband, Archer Huntington, in 1904 in New York City.
Okay, so we know famous people, Archer Huntington and Anna Hyatt Huntington, are connected to the El Cid Campeador statue here, but why?
Believe it or not, I couldn’t find the information on the Internet, so I turned to my library of, gasp, actual books. The book that finally gave me the answer was San Diego Trivia 2 by Evelyn Kooperman (San Dieguito Publishers, San Marcos CA, 1993, p. 534).
The siting of El Cid has him riding towards the San Diego Museum of Art, which will be our next stop on this San Diego Historical Landmarks tour. The San Diego Museum of Art was designed by William Templeton Johnson (1877-1957), a noted San Diego architect who designed many notable places in the San Diego area, including the La Jolla Public Library, La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Trust & Savings Bank, Junipero Serra Museum in Presidio Park, and the Francis Parker School where I occasionally teach chess!
Through the magic of cross-referencing, I discovered that Johnson was friends with Mr. and Mrs. Huntington. When that friendship started, though, is what I want to know. Did it begin in America, or did they meet in Seville in 1929?
Interestingly, El Cid Campeador was not the first statue donated to Balboa Park by Anna Huntington. Diana was donated in 1927 and Youth Taming the Wild in 1935. I do not recall ever seeing those two statues so my mission, and I choose to accept it, is to find them!
Huntington’s 1927 donation leads me to believe that the Huntingtons and Johnson met well before the 1929 Exposition in Spain. Alas, my work here is incomplete and my curiosity is piqued. Perhaps some research in the new San Diego Central Library or with the San Diego Historical Society, located in Balboa Park, will shed some light on this.
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