CubaPLUS Magazine

Love and loyalty welcome visitors to Havana

By: CubaPLUS Magazine
Jul 08, 2024
Love and loyalty welcome visitors to Havana

At the top of the Castle of the Royal Force, in Old Havana, is installed a beautiful bronze statuette, about 110 centimeters high, La Giraldilla, which for everyone means the symbol of the Cuban capital since almost five centuries ago, but in addition, it represents paying tribute to two important human conditions: love and loyalty.

For Cubans, this small statue located in front of the entrance canal to the Havana bay is like a guardian of the city, for which it was built this fortress in 1539.

The story goes that Charles I, king of Spain, appointed Don Hernando de Soto Captain General in 1538 of Cuba and Florida, who would reside, together with his wife Doña Isabel de Bobadilla, in the aforementioned castle, with the purpose of guarding the bay and defending the city from possible attacks by privateers and pirates, very common then.

02-la-giraldilla-p.jpgThe sovereign entrusted this mission to De Soto because he had earned the trust, for the courage and audacity displayed in the Castille expeditions for gold (Panama) and in the conquest of Nicaragua and Peru.

After taking office in Cuba, De Soto left on a mission to Florida in 1539 with nine ships and 900 soldiers. For this reason he left his wife in charge of the Island. According to historical documents, De Soto toured several territories of the current United States. He crossed Georgia and Alabama, where he discovered the Mississippi River.

They say that at that time there was a legend that in the vicinity of the river there was a “Fountain of Youth” and De Soto wanted to take over so precious treasure that, in his opinion, would fill him with riches.

But like every legend, what the arrested Spaniard finally found was nothing less than his death by suffering a lethal fever. Notes from the time indicate that Doña Isabel de Bobadilla, faithful and loving De Soto's wife, spent hours sitting in the tower for endless years at the castle looking towards the horizon, to the entrance of Havana Bay, looking for a hopeful sign of some ship that could return her husband to her. But, unfortunately, this never happened and for this reason they say that Doña Isabel died of love.

A few years later, inspired by such a beautiful love story, the artist Gerónimo Martín Pinzón, of Canarian origin, sculpted the statuette in memory of that loyal woman. Subsequently, the governor of the city, Don Juan Bitrín Viamonte, sent the sculpture cast in bronze and place it, like a weather vane, on the tower added shortly after to the castle and baptized it with the name Giraldilla, in memory of the Giralda of her hometown, Seville.

The beautiful figure, whose original is currently in the Museum of the City, is a woman who holds in her right hand a palm that only preserves its trunk, and to the left of it, on a pole, the Calatrava Cross, order to which belonged the governor.

On her chest appears a medallion with the name of the author of the sculpture and she has her skirt gathered up over her right thigh.

Such a beautiful story has been passed down for centuries from word to mouth and from generation to generation, to the present day, which converted Doña Isabel, without having imagined it, into a symbol of the Cuban capital as a sign of love and loyalty.

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