On today’s lunchtime bike ride I rode to Gálvez Park, a small park located at Virginia Avenue and 22nd Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, to see a statue entitled Bernardo de Gálvez. The statue is part of a series, entitled “Statues of the Liberators,” honoring liberators and other national figures of western-hemisphere countries. The statues can be found along Virginia Avenue between 18th and 25th Streets, near the Headquarters of the Organization of American States in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The statues were erected by various Latin American countries, and are maintained by the National Park Service.
Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Viscount of Galveston and Count of Gálvez, was the Spanish Governor of Louisiana from 1777-1785, prior to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. During his time as governor he staged a three-year military campaign that tied up significant numbers of British troops, allowing the . to capture British-controlled territories such as Baton Rouge, Pensacola, and Natchez. Gálvez also aided the American settlers with supplies and soldiers. Later he was among those who drafted the Treaty of Paris of 1783, negotiated between the United States and Great Britain, ended the Revolutionary War. In appreciation, America’s new president, George Washington, took Gálvez with him in the parade on July 4th. This is the reason that many U.S. cities and landmarks are named for him. Galveston, Texas, Galveston Bay, and St. Bernard Parish Louisiana are examples of these.
And on December 16, 2014, the United States Congress conferred honorary citizenship on Gálvez, citing him as a “hero of the Revolutionary War who risked his life for the freedom of the United States people and provided supplies, intelligence, and strong military support to the war effort.”
The statue, depicting Gálvez atop his horse, was sculpted by Juan de Ávalos of Spain, and sits atop a marble base that is inscribed, “Bernardo De Gálvez, the great Spanish soldier, carried out a courageous campaign in Lands bordering the lower Mississippi. This masterpiece of military strategy lightened the pressure of the English in the war against American settlers who were fighting for their independence. May this statue of Bernardo de Gálvez serve as a reminder that Spain offered the blood of her soldiers for the cause of American Independence.” It was installed in its current location on this day in 1976.
The bronze equestrian statue is idiosyncratic in that it both celebrates a Spanish loyalist and was paid for and donated by King Juan Carlos of Spain to the American people in celebration of the United States Bicentennial. It is Gálvez’s role as a helper of the rebellious colonies during the Revolutionary War which the statue celebrates.