FIU, Sweetwater unveil José Martí statue on Cuban Independence Day

A piece of Cuban history has taken root in Sweetwater.

In commemoration of the 111th anniversary of Cuba’s independence from Spain, Florida International University’s Honors College has donated the more than life-size statue of Cuban writer José Martí, sculpted by the late artist Tony Lopez.

Sweetwater officials, community leaders and the family of Lopez were present Monday for the unveiling of the fiberglass statue placed outside the Jorge Mas Canosa Youth Center, 250 SW 114th Ave. Mayor Manny Maroño said the city is grateful for the gift.

“To have it here is important because Jorge Mas Canosa is visited by many people,” he said. “It really looks like José Martí is out there. It is an honor to have it here.”

Lopez is a well known Cuban artist who died in 2011. His estate gave the statue to the Honors College, which offered to place it on permanent display in Sweetwater. It is a token of the relationship between the city and the school, said Honors Dean Lesley Northup.

“The Honors College is proud … to commemorate, mark and keep us mindful of the deep and lasting partnership FIU has built with Sweetwater.”

Martí battled against Spanish troops at the Battle of Dos Rios near the confluence of the rivers Contramaestre and Cauto. It was his dream for Cuba to gain independence from Spain, and it happened on May 20, 1902.

Lopez, who was born to a family of sculptors, has works in Miami-Dade County and has contributed to the Holocaust Memorial, the Torch of Friendship and St. Mary’s Cathedral. Lopez, who was born in 1918, also has work that can be seen in galleries and collections across the country.

Lopez’s son Marco Antonio Lopez was in attendance. He said the sculpture is a memory of his father.

“This is an homage to both my father and José Martí,“ he said.