Conquistador statue.

El Paso Erects Enormous Man-On-Horse Statue, Ducks Controversy

The world's largest bronze equestrian statue was bolted into place on October 25, 2006 at the entrance to El Paso, Texas's international airport. It stands 36 feet tall on an eight-foot base, and is the second-tallest statue in Texas, overshadowed only by a titanic Sam Houston in Huntsville.

The statue, first proposed in the mid-1990s, is of a horse-riding Spanish conquistador named Don Juan de Oñate. It initially drew approval from city officials because Oñate was known for celebrating the first Thanksgiving in The New World, near present-day El Paso, a good twenty years before the Pilgrims did the same in New England. As the project dragged on, however, Oñate's legacy grew more spotty. It turned out that he was known for other things, too, such as taking local Indians who didn't obey his rules (like celebrating Thanksgiving) and having their feet cut off.

In 2003, with construction already underway, the statue's name was changed as a compromise. It became the generic "The Equestrian," even though it was still a statue of Don Juan de Oñate. It's official unveiling won't take place until April 30, 2007, leading its sculptor to suggest that it be encased in shrink-wrap until then. City officials, apparently tired of controversy, shot down that idea, leaving El Paso with a giant, unofficial statue of an anonymous guy on a horse.

[10/29/2006]
Address:
Airway Blvd., El Paso, TX
Directions:
I-10 exit 25, then north on Airway Blvd a little over one mile to El Paso International Airport. The statue stands beside the entry road.
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