José Vilalta Saavedra

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Statue of José Martí in Parque Central, Havana, sculpted by Villalta Saavedra in 1905.

José Villalta Saavedra (born January 27, 1862, Havana, - died March 16, 1912, Rome)[1] was a Cuban sculptor. One of the first native Cuban sculptors, Villalta was a mulatto born in Havana. Thanks to private patrons, he was able to train in Europe, first in Canarias (Spain) and then in la Reale Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara. He worked in Italy and Cienfuegos.[2]


Villalta created several important Cuban monuments and statues, including the statue of José Marti located in Havana's Parque Central (Central Park) (dedicated February 24, 1905) and the monument to Cuban engineer Francisco de Albear. Vilalta completed the Albear statue in Florence, Italy in 1893. The sculptor won a national competition to create a memorial to eight Cuban medical students executed in 1871 by Spanish colonial troops. It was completed in 1889, and it was the first monument made in Cuba by a Cuban artist.[2]

The main gate of Colon Cemetery in Havana. The Virtues atop the gate were sculpted by Vilalta.

In Havana's Necropolis Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus Cemetery), Villalta made the sculptures of the Virtues(Faith, Hope and Charity) above the main cemetery entrance and the religious relief sculptures around the cemetery walls. Villalta also created the monument at the most visited place in Necropolis Colon, the grave of Amelia Goyri de la Hoz [de Adot], a woman known as "La Milagrosa" ("The Miraculous Woman" or "The Miraculous One").[1] An upper-class woman, she died in childbirth in 1901 at age 23, and her stillborn son was placed at her feet when she was buried.[3] According to legend, when the grave was opened years later, her corpse was intact – a sign of holiness – and her son was nestled in her arms. Amelia is considered by many to be Cuba's unofficial saint.[4] Cubans come to her grave every day to ask for children or love affairs.[3] Villalta carved the sculpture out of one piece of Carrara marble, and he finished the work in 1902.

Statue of Francisco de Albear by Cuban sculptor José Vilalta Saavedra in Havana


  1. ^ a b Aruca, Lohania; Menocal, Narciso; Shaw, Edward (1996). "The Cristobal Colon Cemetery in Havana". The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts. Florida International University. 22 (Cuba Theme Issue): 36–55. doi:10.2307/1504146. JSTOR 1504146. OCLC 61496559.
  2. ^ a b "Sculptures in Cuba". Galeria Cubarte. 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  3. ^ a b "The Miraculous Woman". Cuban Traditions. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  4. ^ Gjelten, Tom (2004-10-07). "La Milagrosa, Cuba's Unofficial Patron Saint" (audio). Day to Day. National Public Radio. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  • Veigas Zamora, José (2005). Escultura en Cuba: Siglo XX. Editorial Caguayo y Editorial Oriente, Santiago de Cuba. ISBN 959-11-0425-1.