Thousands of drivers unknowingly pass this bust of the “Father of the Nation” to Chile, Peru, and Argentina every day in Beverly Hills. It remains hidden and forgotten among a cluster of small traffic islands behind the Beverly Center.
The statue honors José Francisco de San Martín y Matorras, an Argentinian-born general and the main leader of the southern part of South America’s battle to gain independence from Spanish rule. Grubby from endless exhaust fumes, the monument has a missing letter and “Peru” seems to have either been stolen or added later, its capital letters roughly painted yellow. On the reverse, a huge and bare map of South America highlights Chile, Peru, and Argentina, though graffiti now mars that as well.
It’s a rather neglected monument to a man who, in the early part of the 19th century, crossed the Andes with his army and wrestled Chile from the hands of Royalist rule. Then, after winning control of part of the Peruvian capital Lima from the Spanish, he was appointed Protector of Peru and saw that country soon gain its independence, too.
Mystery surrounds José de San Martín’s sudden decision in 1824 to quit the army, eschew any political role, and leave South America, but his adventurous life continued to be as globe-trotting as ever after his retirement. He offered his services in other conflicts long after he had aged and his health had begun to fail.
He’s been celebrated with road names and statues in France, Colombia, the Philippines, and Peru, as well as all over Argentina, where he is a national hero. There are also statues of him in New York City and Washington, D.C. too, though records barely mention this bust in Beverly Hills.
The oft-overlooked bust was designed by Fernando Di Zitti and unveiled in 2001. It’s framed by inscribed red bricks of probable donors; the plaque notes the Consulate General of Argentina in Los Angeles and the San Martin Society of the San Fernando Valley. A statue of Jesus looks on sympathetically from a Catholic church nearby. In a city obsessed with silver screen caped crusaders, it’s worth making the trip to pay homage to a real hero.
Know Before You Go
Getting to this small traffic island at Burton Way and N. Le Doux Road takes patience. Watch out for the traffic coming from all directions!