The city’s Parks Department on Tuesday unveiled a replacement Spanish Memorial Plaque at Fort Greene Park, meant to honor Spanish martyrs who gave their lives during the American Revolutionary War.
The original plaque — presented as a gift from King Juan Carlos of Spain in 1976 — was hastily placed on the west side of the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, and deteriorated over time due to vandalism and weather. The plaque was eventually moved inside the Fort Greene Park Visitor Center.
The new memorial was unveiled on Oct. 5, during Hispanic Heritage Month. At the plaque presentation, members of the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, the National Society of the Daughters of the Revolution, and more spoke about the plaque’s history and significance.
Patrice Degnan-Erquicia, executive director of the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute Executive, believes it is important to share the narrative of the Spanish soldiers.
“We’re gathered here to celebrate together the Spanish speaking world [and] their contributions to a great nation,” said Degnan-Erquicia. “What better time to do it than now [during] National Hispanic Heritage month — to remember all those who built this wonderful, independent nation?”
The new bronze tablet was funded by the Spanish electrical company, Iberdrola, and is set into a natural stone boulder at the eastern side of the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument plaza.
Earlier this year, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission criticized the Parks Department’s plans for a replacement monument, claiming the new plaque and its proposed location in the park were both underwhelming and “demeaning.” Members proposed that Parks move to erect something as substantial, if not more, than the original memorial — and in a more prominent location.
In response to the feedback, a Parks Department spokesperson told Brooklyn Paper that the agency chose to place the new plaque closer to the plaza.
Either way, the new monument received high praise on Tuesday.
“Place and period markers are so important,” said area Councilmember and New York City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo. “Without them, the stories of those who came before us, making freedom possible for all of us, would never be told. It is my pleasure to support these organizations, and my distinct honor to remember the Spanish who gave their lives in the American Revolution.”
The timing of the unveiling, Cumbo said, was also especially poignant.
“To do so during Hispanic heritage month brings everything full circle to me,” she said. “Today’s unveiling is one of the many reasons I am so proud to call Brooklyn home.”
“The Conservancy believes we are stronger as a community and nation when we recognize the diversity of contributions to our democracy,” added Rosamond Fletcher, executive director of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy. We are grateful that the plaque honoring the brave Spanish soldiers will be in the park again for all users to appreciate.”
Update (Oct. 6, 1:30 pm): This story has been updated to include additional comment from the Parks Department.