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Visiting José Belloni's monument 'The Cart', Batlle Park, Montevideo: emblematic of Uruguay's historic energies
Triumphant efforts at an Uruguayan hilltop
An ox cart. Forged over 80 years ago, its form yet suggests irrepressible energies.
Triumphantly struggling over the crest of an artificial hill, this highly realistic sculpture, 'The Cart' (Spanish: La Carreta) by the Uruguayan José Belloni Garaycochea (1882-1965) is among the artist's most famous works (1).
Inaugurated under the Terra government in 1934, the various elements of the sculpture and its setting in Batlle Park (Spanish: Parque Batlle; or more fully: Parque José Batlle y Ordóñez), Montevideo are expressive of various, typical aspects of historic, rural life in the land known as Uruguay since independence in the early 19th century and as la Banda Oriental (the Eastern Bank) in Colonial times. Ox carts were not unusual means of transport in the interior of the country, and were called upon to negotiate the contours of the hill country which makes up much of Uruguay's interior. (In an Uruguayan context, these hills are known as Cuchillas.)
So the ox cart, which José Belloni brilliantly represents in his sculpture, seems to be making a successful struggle to the top of one of Uruguay's Cuchillas. At a deeper level, the work seems emblematic of the energies and challenges associated with animal and human attempts to tame and possess the topography, as it were (2). Moreover, the figure of a gaucho on horseback, riding alongside the ox cart, recalls a profound leitmotif in remembrances of the country's past.
I recall that many years ago I undertook a long, international coach journey, which ended for me when I alighted within sight of Belloni's The Cart. I thus knew rather fully I was home — Uruguay then being my home.
And so The Cart by José Belloni most definitely epitomizes home for Uruguayans, in its natural and historical environment. Batlle Park in which its stands is also emblematic of the country itself, given that José Batlle y Ordóñez (1856-1929) for whom it is named, was a long-serving President whose reforms came to symbolize for many years the nation's collective efforts. The Park's landscapers, who have shaped the immediate setting of Belloni's The Cart, have also provided an artificial expanse of water in which the profile of the sculpture is reflected; and this is an apt reminder that water defines the boundaries of Uruguay. If artists wished to exploit simple, visible elements which typify Uruguay's natural and historical environment, they could not have done so more effectively than José Belloni has done here at his monument The Cart, rightly classed since as a national monument, with its triumphant, elemental energies frozen in time, reflected by water and light, and refracted to today's generation of Uruguayans.
January 6, 2016
(1) Other well-known works by sculptor José Belloni include 'The Stagecoach' (Spanish: La Diligencia), 'The Argument' (Spanish: El Entrevero), 'José Enrique Rodó', 'Ansina', 'Juan Manuel Blanes'; of Swiss-Uruguayan extraction, Belloni also created the sculpture 'William Tell'; all of these works are on display in parks and public spaces in the Uruguayan capital. Belloni's sculpting skills may also be seen at Uruguay's Legislative Palace (Spanish: Palacio Legislativo), Montevideo, which as a whole was also classed as a national monument by the Bordaberry government in 1975.
(2) The interactive energies of fauna against their natural environment and the weakness of human effort are themes which inform many of the writings of Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga (1878-1937).
Also worth seeing
Other of Montevideo 's visitor attractions are too numerous to name here, but some of these include: Plaza Independencia (Independence Square), with the tall Palacio Salvo building, the statue and mausoleum of General Artigas , the Ciudadela gate and the Palacio Estévez (former Presidential palace); the Cerro (Hill) has an historic fort, which overlooks Montevideo harbour.
How to get there: LanChile flies to Montevideo's Carrasco International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional de Carrasco) Uruguay from North American destinations including New York and Toronto. Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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