El Cid and Babieca!

Hubby and I are in San Diego, CA, visiting friends over the Holiday.

One of our ventures was to Balboa Park.  Now, I need to step aside for a moment and tell you how foolish I felt today… You see, I’ve been to the San Diego Zoo which is in Balboa Park.  I’ve driven through Balboa Park and I’ve even used parts of Balboa Park as a location for a commercial we shot several years ago.   But, for some reason, I never actually saw the Park.  I never knew that all these incredible buildings existed or that there was any history there.  I figured it was like Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Sheesh.  Was I ignorant!  Today, I was taken to another part of the park and I was utterly amazed.  I had no idea… the place is amazing!  The buildings and grounds are spectacular and I felt so silly that I didn’t know it existed and didn’t know the history.


So, I’m going to tell you the history of Balboa Park so that you will always know… Here is a snapshot history according to Wikipedia:

“Balboa Park is a 1,200 acre (4.9 km²) urban cultural park in San Diego, California. The Park is named after the Spanish maritime explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa. It was the location of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and 1935 California Pacific International Exposition which each created architectural landmarks for the Park.

Balboa Park’s site was placed in reserve in 1835, and so is one of the oldest sites in the United States dedicated to public recreational use. Besides open space areas and natural vegetation green belts, it contains a variety of cultural attractions including many museums, theaters, gardens, shops and restaurants, as well as the world famous San Diego Zoo.”

So, as I was walking around with my mouth agape – the buildings are awe inspiring and the amphitheater reminded me of the Hollywood Bowl only smaller- I couldn’t help but considered the crowds that must have walked these same streets in 1915.  And, the structures kept appearing around every corner!   I wished the walls could talk.

It is rather humorous that I would think buildings created in 1915 would be historical – when you consider Europe (or even the East Coast).  But, whatever, this is what I have to go on being from California.   Having said that, Balboa Park is ‘one of the oldest sites in the United States dedicated to public recreational use’.  I think that is an honorable mention for sure.

Anyway, here is a professional photo of one of the many buildings in Balboa Park.


As we walked up a hill, we came upon this statue.  Hubby took a photo with his Droid.  He told me his Droid would take a better photo than my Blackberry – which is probably true.  So, here are a few of his photos.  (Hubby is 6’2″.  You can tell by the images that the statue is quite imposing since it looks like an ant took the photos.)

Now the only marking on this statue was this plaque.  Hmmmmmm.

The plaque.

The statue was huge and bronze.  The detail in the horse really impressed me (Besides the fact that anyone can actually sculpt anything at all, ever.  I am always amazed with artwork.  Since I cannot draw a stick, I constantly find art in everything and ponder how someone could “think that up”.  sigh.).  The detail was very authentic.  Often times I’ll see a horse sculpture and wonder to myself if the artist had a horse in front of them…?  But with this one, you knew the artist understood the way a horse moves.

Anyway, I decided to go back to the hotel and find out about El Cid Campeador, Anne Hyatt Huntington and the horse (if there was any info on the horse).


I saw that name and thought of two hotels.  The Hyatt, of course, and the Huntington which is exclusive and in San Francisco.  I wondered if she was related.

So, when I got home I googled her. She lived from 1876 – 1973.  A nice, long life, it seems by the biography I read…

Immediately, however,  I laughed to myself and thought that she must be sculpting in heaven and wondering how in the world someone like me was able to google her!  But anyway, the reason she was so good at replicating the anatomy of the horse is because her father was a professor of Paleontology and Zoology at Harvard.  So, she probably had a little step up from everyone else in drawing class, if you know what I mean.

She started sculpting at a young age and showed promise, obviously.  But, I remember looking at the statue wondering how a woman could have created this, in bronze, so many years ago.  I didn’t think women had that much clout in those days.  And, I was a bit correct in that part of the reason she was able to create such large bronze pieces is because her husband was quite wealthy.

She was a Hyatt but not from that family.  However, he was a Huntington and he was from that family…  So, luckily, she had the wherewithall to be noticed as a woman sculptor back then.

Anne created many animal bronzes that are lofting in several parks in the US and abroad (imagine shipping one of these…).  One bio I read stated that Anne and her husband created Huntington Park in California.  Hmmmm.  Nice place.  They obviously did nice and beautiful things all over.

A professional photo of the statue...


I then decided to look up El Cid.  I had heard the name, of course, but had no idea of the history.

In short, his real name was Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (1043 – 1099).  He was described as a Castillian nobleman and military leader who conquered Valencia.  He ruled for quite a while and was revered as a cavalryman.

His title, El Cid Campeador, means “The Lord, master of military acts.”  Or, some people say it means simply, “The Champion”.

OK, well, what about his horse? was my thought…

I thought this was interesting... it is El Cid's signature. Rodrigo. I am Rodrigo.


Luckily, I did find a bit about his horse, Babieca.

First of all, his horse was famous, which I liked.

Here is the story…

Little Rodrigo had a godfather who was a monk.  This monk raised Iberian (Andalusian) horses.  When Rodrigo came of age, he was allowed to pick his horse out of the corral of many.

Rodrigo picked a tiny white one which stole his heart.  But, the monk was very upset with Rodrigo’s poor choice (white was not a color of health and the poor little foal was not very big or strong).  The monk called Rodrigo “babieca” for picking this low quality horse.

Babieca means “fool” or “stupid”.

So, the horse was named Babieca.  And, that may be the greatest irony because that horse went down in equine history as one of the most prominent and successful war horses ever.  Rodrigo never rode any other horse over his entire career.  In fact, the horse outlived El Cid!

History says that El Cid was shot through the heart during battle.  He didn’t survive.  But, the townspeople and his wife were very afraid that if the warriors from the other side (Moors) knew that El Cid was dead, they would be doomed.  So, they strung El Cid onto his very recognizable and famous horse, Babieca, and sent the horse onto the streets himself, carrying his deceased partner.

Some accounts say the tricked worked and others say it didn’t.  But, it is agreed upon that both Babieca and El Cid’s wife made it to safety.

Another statue of them by Anne Hyatt Huntington

Here is what was said about Babieca:

“Babieca became an imposing white standard of the Andalusian race, obedient and nimble; noble and of generous spirit. He soon grew into a formidable charger, a frightening machine of war. He carried his master courageously into all battles for thirty years, each time towards victory. His name was legendary and he was spoken of with awe and reverence.

Babieca was an Iberian horse, called the Andalusian breed which had a long and distinguished history and was developed in the Spanish Peninsula. Their fame spread as formidable mounts in the Iberian cavalry of the Carthaginian army that fought against the Roman legions who in turn captured and bred them to help conquer the known world. They soon became the standard by which all warhorses were measured and were prized for their agility, temperament, endurance and depth of character.
Babieca was an outstanding member of a pure bred that has great stamina coupled with its stance, power and the rhythm and grace of its movements. The breed has always instilled in spectator and rider alike a feeling of grandeur.”

Most documents agree that Babieca lived to the ripe age of 40!  He lived 2 years beyond his master and was buried with Rodrigo at the Burgos Cathedral.

THANKS FOR COMING ALONG WITH ME FOR MY STROLL IN BALBOA PARK and the great statue of El Cid and Babieca by Anne Hyatt Huntington.

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4 comments have been posted...

  1. Seabiscute

    To add a note of serendipity — last night I was reading an old Equine Journal (I had saved it because it featured Morgans, but then it got lost in a stack of stuff) that had an article about Lusitanos. One of the illustrations was the statue of El Cid!

    Before I read your blog entry about Balboa Park, I would not have known where the statue was or anything about it, but now I do!

    As mentioned, the statue illustrated an article about Lusitanos, while your source calls Babieca an Andalusian. My guess is that a thousand years ago the two hadn’t yet bifurcated (Lusitano being the Portuguese version). IMO they are still pretty close.

  2. Seabiscute

    Thanks for the vicarious visit to wonderful Balboa Park! I used to spend the odd hour there — in a former life I had a client near San Diego, and I would visit the park during down time (before my flight home, etc.). They have a lunch-hour-sized free museum where I remember seeing a wonderful exhibit of Russian icons…Also, we had an event at the Air Travel Museum there (or whatever it is really called). Something for everyone in Balboa Park!

    But, I don’t remember the statue of El Cid! so thank you for that. Did you know there was a movie about him? Very swashbucking and romantic, starring Charlton Heston, in the early 60s. I loved it. Maybe you could find it on Netflix or something — ?

  3. Casey O'Connor

    So, you’re here in so cal? About 2 hours from me? I know, holidays, family, Balboa Park…. sigh. Hope you’re having a great time, sounds like you are!

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