Another historical figure from Pensacola’s past is getting a monument downtown. "What makes great cities is art and culture" said Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward speaking to a crowd of donors and dignitaries Monday morning. They were gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony for a monument to Revolutionary War hero Bernardo de Galvez, the general who drove the British out of Pensacola during the Battle of Pensacola. The mayor called de Galvez an amazing man "Started out obviously in Spain, invading Portugal then coming to Mexico, returning to Europe then coming back here and pushing out the British." It was because of his leadership in that battle that congress honored de Galvez as an honorary citizen of the United States in 2015.
Also speaking at the event was Jim Green, the President of the Pensacola Heritage Foundation. He called the project the largest one that Pensacola Heritage has ever undertaken. Green says the project began with a call from mayor Hayward asking for suggestions to help beautify the city. "And after several meetings we all agreed to highlight our unique history and enhance the beauty of our city by erecting a monument to a historic person who had great influence on Pensacola's history. [Pensacola Heritage Foundation] board members decided right away [that there was] no more deserving person than general Bernardo de Galvez. Mayor Hayward and the city council suggested the perfect site ([or the monument]."
That site is the intersection of Palafox and Wright Street. The monument will include a statue of de Galvez on a horse waving his hat. It was crafted by Pensacola sculptor Bob Rasmussen. The statue will be placed on a base which will include an infinity fountain. And it will honor a man who accomplished a lot in a short life.
"The story of the man is really remarkable" said Nancy Fetterman, a local historian who has been a part of the project from the start. "He died when he was 40, but by that time he had already been governor of Louisiana. He was the Viceroy of New Spain which is [now] Mexico and all the Louisiana territory."
Fetterman says she had been working for a while with members of the University of West Florida history and archeology departments to get General de Galvez his honorary citizen status. She says she had an interview in Spain with Carmen de Reparaz who wrote the definitive history of the Battle of Pensacola called "Yo Solo" which means "I alone." "When all the admirals kept saying 'We can't go in there with our ships', [de Galvez said] 'I alone. I will go'. So he did, and the rest of the ships followed him."
The groundbreaking ceremony attracted city and county officials. Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson says this honor was a long time coming. "This is a great day. I think recognizing de Galvez and the importance of Pensacola to the American revolution and the importance of de Galvez to the United States is tremendous."
And after the ceremony, Pensacola Mayor Hayward called the push to honor de Galvez a team effort. "About eight years ago, after we got into office, we talked about celebrating the arts and the culture, and how important it is for a city like Pensacola, being America's first settlement, to really tell that story. And I think today, with the de Galvez monument, kicking that off, [I think] people are going to be [even more enthusiastic] about our history."
The statue has been completed and is in a facility near Atlanta being prepared for display. If all goes according to plan the monument will be unveiled late this summer.