Art

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.

The monument in the center of the Plaza

The monument in the center of the Plaza

Below San Martin, there is a sculpture of our “Madre Patria” (Motherland) that symbolizes our liberty.

San Martin and the Motherland

San Martin and the Motherland

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.

Front view of the Motherland with the llama on her helmet

Front view of the Motherland with the llama on her helmet

Side view of the Motherland with the llama on her helmet

Side view of the Motherland with the llama on her helmet

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.

Architect Jose Antonio Orrego and the Motherland's helmet (Photo: Caretas)

Architect Jose Antonio Orrego and the Motherland’s helmet (Photo: Caretas)

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.

  1. Juan Quintana says:

    Enlightening and shedding light upon our own History. An introspective view of ourselves and our legacy.
    Juan Quintana.
    ICPNA Academic Supervisor

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Cult Peru correspondent
Vanessa - Lima

Born on Lima's anniversary, from a family of writers from the north of Peru. Painter, writer, engineer and teacher. Loves to travel and get to know different cultures.

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About Peru
About this place

Continent: South America
Capital: Lima
Population: 29,907,000
Area: 1,285,220 km2
Currency: Sol
Languages: Spanish, Aymara, Quechua

Time in Lima
10:00 am

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Distance from you
5,680km