One of San Diego’s iconic landmarks is the statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo near the end of Point Loma, at Cabrillo National Monument.
Over the years there has been a controversy concerning Cabrillo’s place of birth: Portugal or Spain? I covered that in my previous blog post.
The original statue of Cabrillo in the park, by Portuguese sculptor Alvaro DeBree, was commissioned by the Portuguese government. After years of exposure to the weather, that first statue was relocated to Ensenada.
Portuguese sculptor Joas Chartes Almeida carved an exact replica of the original statue out of a more resistant stone, and it was installed in at Cabrillo National Monument in 1988.
During my last trip to Cabrillo National Monument, a ranger inside the Visitor Center showed me a National Park Service document that provides a Brief History of the Original Cabrillo Statue:
In 1949, some 36 years after its establishment as a memorial to Juan Cabrillo, a statue of Cabrillo was finally installed at the monument. The statue had been commissioned by the Portuguese government in 1935 as a gift to the state of California and was to be exhibited in the Portuguese exhibit at the San Francisco Exposition of 1940. The work of Alvaro De Bree, a young Portuguese sculptor, the 14-foot-high, seven-ton statue was not exhibited at the fair as intended, but was instead stored in a private garage in San Francisco. Following a considerable amount of effort, the city of San Diego secured the statue, and it was installed at the Naval Training Center facing Ballast Point. The official dedication of the site took place on September 28, 1942, the 400th anniversary of Cabrillo’s landing.
In 1947, the San Diego Historical Society proposed that the statue be moved to the Cabrillo National Monument. The Chief of the Museum Bureau in Washington, after examining photographs judged the work to be “a satisfactory piece of memorial sculpture” and declared that it appeared suitable “from an artistic standpoint.” The Park Service accepted the statue with the stipulation that the city fund the costs for a base for the statue and for moving it to the monument.
The dedication ceremony took place on September 28, 1949. The Mayor of San Diego, Harley E. Knox, formally presented the statue to the National Park Service and Dr. Manuel Rocheta, chancellor of the Portuguese Embassy in Washington, D.C., delivered an address.
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