A Flaming Llama
Sometimes, you get more than you bargain for. Sometimes, a slight misunderstanding can change everything. Take Plaza San Martin, for example. Located in Downtown Lima, it was inaugurated on July 27, 1921 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the independence of Peru. In the heart of the plaza, there is a monument dedicated to our liberator, Jose de San Martin. A contest was made to choose the sculptor, and Spanish sculptor Mariano Benlliure won, illustrating San Martin during his voyage across the Andes.
Below San Martin, there is a sculpture of our “Madre Patria” (Motherland) that symbolizes our liberty.
The blueprints given to Benlliure said that a votive flame was to be put on top of the woman’s helmet to homage San Martin’s fight. The problem was, that the Spanish word for “flame” is “llama” – just like the animal. So, instead of flames representing bravery, a cute little animal was put above her head.
But that’s not the end of the story. In 1997, the monument was restored, and the architect Jose Antonio Orrego was in charge. He then noticed something else hidden along the helmet: two cornucopias (horns of plenty) and two branches of the Quina tree (Quinine Bark tree), which are two of the three elements of Peru’s Coat of Arms. The third element is a camelid called vicuña, a relative of the llama.
So maybe, just maybe, famous sculptor Mariano Benlliure did not make a mistake while reading the blueprints, but rather chose to represent the Motherland with the national symbols of our country, as his own personal touch and gift for us.