The Sicilian Connection

2008.Aug.05 Tuesday · 0 comments

in Life

“The people? They are the dust you draw your circles in. THOSE are the people! Sicilians are hopeless. I mean exactly that! Nothing changes here… EVER!”

– Abbot Manfredi, in The Sicilian (1987)

Buenos Aires – As I mentioned the other day, I found myself walking around Plaza Sicilia, on the chance of sighting a Statue of Liberty replica that the city’s database asserted was there. As long as I was mucking about and checking out statues, I figured, why not cover the plaza? Part of it I’ve mentioned on occasion – the Jardín Japonés, though it occurs to me I’ve never really done a writeup on it – not that it’s a particularly outstanding one – it’s about what one might expect going in. Perhaps one day… back to the Plaza as a whole – it’s more or less bounded by Avenidas Libertador, Sarmiento, Alcorta, and Casares, at the far eastern edge of Palermo and the Parque 3 de Febrero. There’s a long, narrow traffic island running along the Alcorta side, and smack dab in the middle of it is what appears to be the sort of launching point for the plaza – this little dias with a Persian Lion (that strangely seems to be diagrammed for butchering), followed by a towering pedestal with two bulls’ heads atop, called the Column of the Persian Temple (a replica of the column at the Palace of Persepolis), gifts of the Iranian government to the city of Buenos Aires. I’m not even sure that these are considered part of Plaza Sicilia, given that they’re on the traffic island. One of the two plaques in front of the lion has been removed, the other is the Iranian coat-of-arms.

Brick dias with ceramic lion outside Plaza Sicilia
Bulls’ head tower

From there, entering the plaza proper, the next encounter is with the Caperucita Roja, or Little Red Riding Hood. The sculpture dates from 1937, and is by French scupltor Jean Carlus. Originally the work was located in Centro, in the Plaza Lavalle, facing onto Av. Córdoba, but was moved to this spot in 1972, where it balances atop a piece of concrete removed from the first site. More than once in its history, the bronze plaque that sits in front of the statue (and that of most of the monuments in this park) has been stolen and had to be replaced – whether the plaques (and sometimes whole busts or statues) are being stolen for their sentimental or historical value, essentially souvenirs, or as sources of scrap metal, is up for debate.

Caperucita Roja
The standout statue, at the corner of Sarmiento and Libertador, at least as far as guidebooks are generally concerned, is the Rodin sculpture of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, seventh president of the Republic of Argentina. He is perhaps best known for his progressive outlook on education, and is generally credited with the implementation of the free and open admission educational system and library system here in Argentina. The statue is of note, besides being a Rodin, with its interesting pedestal details of Mercury emerging from the Gates of Hell, is that the statue is erected precisely on the spot where Sarmiento’s arch-enemy, Juan Manuel de Rosas, had his home. In fact, the entire plaza was constructed on the grounds of the home, which, with great fanfare, was dynamited to the ground. The statue is also placed with its back to a small acacia tree (you can just see it to the left, inside a low black fenced square) that bears a plaque at its root, commemorating the Aromo de Manuelita, the spot where Rosas’ daughter used to rest under the trees to escape the tyrannies of her father, according to her memoirs. (Of additional note, a monument to Rosas is located cross corner and defiantly facing Sarmiento’s statue, placed there later by his supporters.)

Statue of Sarmiento
Aromo de Manuelita

In 1998, on the 50th anniversary of India’s independence, that nation gifted a bust of Mahatma Gandhi to the city of Buenos Aires, and it is positioned along Libertador not far along to the east. The statue is a work by Indian sculptor Ram Vanji Sutar, who also sculpted the bust of Gandhi that sits at East 21st Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan, along with many statues that grace government buildings throughout India.

Bust of Mahatma Gandhi
A few steps further on is one of my favorite statues, a bust of Nobel Prize winning Italian poet and author Luigi Pirandello, donated to the city by the province of Agrigento, in Sicily, his home region. The work is that of Sicilian sculptor Giuseppe “Pino” Cirami, and was placed here in 2003.

Bust of Luigi Pirandello
Finally, we’re back at the edge of the Japanese Gardens, and on the corner of Libertador and Casares, is this flower-ringed statue of Carlos Tejedor, who was a congressman, and then foreign minister under Sarmiento’s presidency, and later became the governor of the province of Buenos Aires, and was noted for his staunch opposition to federalism and led the fight against the idea of an autonomous federal capital, the city of Buenos Aires itself.

Statue of Carlos Tejedor

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