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Photographer's Note

Another in my line of photos which really aren't the least bit spectacular, but show something neat, interesting, and in this case, quirky.

This is in the plaza San Martín in central Lima, not far from the Plaza d'Armas (the main plaza, around which the main cathedral, the presedential palace, etc. are located). José de San Martín, according to a Wikipedia entry, was an Argentine who was key in the struggle for independence from Spain, and was particularly active in Argentina and Peru, hence the number of plazas to his honour (a zoomed-out view would show the letters above her head reading "La Nacion al General D. José de San Martín, or the birth of General José San Martín). This statue is at the front of a large pillar, bearing the General on a horse at the top. Fairly typical honour to one of the major heroes of the Peruvian independence movement. Except for one thing, which you may have noticed...

In Spanish, the word "llama" (properly pronounced yä-m?, or "ya-ma," not lä-m?) can mean three things. It is the verb "to call." So como se llama, or "how do you call/say that" is a common and very useful phrase for those of us learning Spansish. You say "como se llama" and point to something, and you learn what that thing is called. Then there is the animal, which is, along with its close relative the alpaca, one of the two South American camelids. We are all familiar with them. But llama is also the word for flame, or fire. There is a brand of matches called "llamas," which plays on this double-meaning of the word by showing a llama (animal) on the front, instead of a llama (flame). We see something similar here, but in this case, it was no joke...

As the story goes, in the nineteenth century, someone commissioned this statue of José de San Martín. Being a great liberator, in the era where liberators were so common, this statue was to be that of Lady Liberty. Lady Liberty often is often associated with the flame of revolution, as with the Statue of Liberty in New York. But the campesiños (highland peasants/farmers/labourers) of Peru are not so educated in the ways and symbols of European-style revolutionaries, and this would have been much moreso the case 150 years ago. Hence, when the particular campesiño, a skilled sculpture who probably worked the land and had a flock of llamas, was commissioned to carve "Lady Liberty con una llama en sus cabeza," or Lady Liberty with a flame (llama) on her head, he must have thought that that was a rather strange request, and got right down to carving a llama on her head...

I am rather surprised that this quirky little thing is not a more popular tourist attraction, since it is so funny, and cute. I saw no one else there looking at it, let alone trying to find the best angle from which to show the llama, and I don't think that my Lonely Planet mentions it. It was my thesis supervisor, who has been coming to Peru to do his research for decades and has many Peruvian friends and generally knows the place quite well, who told me about this, after I had been having some confusion about the whole "llama" thing.

A view of the entire statue and a side view (better showing the llama) are presented in the workshop. And no, I did not mislabel this. This is a colour photo, but the statue is painted white and black, and it was an overcast, grey day, as most are in Lima between June and December. So, on that long note, please enjoy Lady Liberty with the noble llama on her head!

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