Near the center of Balboa Park, between the San Diego Museum of Art and the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, you’ll find a 23-foot high bronze statue of El Cid. The legendary hero of Spain is mounted on his horse and proudly holding a spear and shield.
The striking sculpture is formally called El Cid Campeador and was created in 1927 by Anna Hyatt Huntington, a famous American sculptor who during her life won numerous awards and commissions. Most known for her lifelike animal sculptures, she is remembered for being the first woman to create a public monument in New York City. Her Joan of Arc was also New York City’s first monument dedicated to a female historical figure.
Anna Hyatt Huntington was married to Archer Milton Huntington, a wealthy philanthropist and art enthusiast, who founded The Hispanic Society of America. He made the very first contribution to the nearby San Diego Museum of Art, in the form of the painting María at La Granja, by famed Spanish post-impressionist painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida.
The El Cid in Balboa Park is one of several identical statues. The original stands in front of the Hispanic Society in New York City. Other copies stand in Seville, San Francisco, and Buenos Aires.
It seems that when the statue was installed in Balboa Park in 1930, there was a good deal of public comment about the horse’s unsightly posterior, and a debate over the direction it should face! To the relief of many, the horse’s rear end faces away from the central square and nearby buildings!
A much smaller horse sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington can be enjoyed a short distance to the north of El Cid, right next to the San Diego Museum of Art. It’s called Youth Taming the Wild.