They say Valencia is different, and they are usually right.
Plaza Manises is one of Valencia’s most significant squares; located in the historic centre of the city, surrounded by the Palace of the Generalitat, where the President of the Valencian government works, and the Diputación de Valencia, where the regional government works.
With all that Valencian governing going on , you would obviously expect the statue in the middle of the square to represent something or somebody emblematic of Valencia.
I had walked past the statue thousands of times before curiosity got the better of me; but try as I might I could find no indication of who it was up there among the clouds, looking seriousand carrying a sword to prove it.
There was no visible plaque to inform me and so I resorted to the Internet.
It was shocking to discover that the figure was none other than Francisco de Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru, who died cut to pieces by his own side in a bloody civil war among the Spanish.
And the Spanish connection with Valencia, you might ask? None whatsoever that I’m aware of.
So why is he so high up; were they afraid that, like Columbus, he might wander off and get lost and start telling people they were Indians when they weren’t? Did they think he was too dangerous a man to leave at street level?
Perhaps. Apparently, if you can find a ladder, or hang out of a nearby window with a telescope, you may be able to read the inscription that is up there near Pizarro’s feet, and which would inform you that this is a monument to the ‘Spanish Race’, erected in 1969 when it was still considered cool to say such things, and despite the fact that Pizarro married an Inca and, according to scientists who examined his remains, received at least twenty wounds from other members of that race.
Maybe it’s not a coincidence that the pillar on which the statue stands comes from the old medieval hospital, where the main public library now stands; and that the hospital building was the first European mental asylum.