In 1957, a statue of Simon Bolivar was erected in the Basin Street neutral ground at Canal Street. In ’65 and ’66, statues of Benito Juarez and Francisco Morazan were added, forming what’s known as the Garden of the Americas. Created to acknowledge New Orleans’ connection to and friendship with the Hispanic world, it recognizes these three Latin American heroes of Venezuela, Mexico and Honduras, respectively.
The Bolivar statue features five bronze emblems, detailing the five Bolivarian coats of arms. It is placed before seven flagpoles, six of which represent the countries Bolivar liberated in the early 1800s, along with one to represent the U.S. Created by sculptor Abel Vallmitjana, the granite statue stands an impressive 12 feet atop its iron ore platform.
The statue has been poorly maintained these last 50 years. A general rehabilitation of the area was undertaken in 2000, after a St. Martin’s Episcopal School sixth grader sent a copy of his geography research paper, “Hello, Latin America – Where is Simon Bolivar?” to then-mayor Marc Morial, detailing the declining condition of the statue and the area surrounding it. As a result of that student’s efforts, new flags were raised on refurbished flagpoles, bricks were replaced, graffiti was removed and new palm trees and shrubs were planted.
The Bolivar statue itself, however, is still in need of repair, and in May 2010 it was announced that this will soon happen. An agreement between the City of New Orleans and the Simon Bolivar Foundation (based in Houston) will restore and refurbish the statue and the bronze plaques. The foundation will provide the funding for the project, estimated to cost $40,000.