Roll Back to 1993
From August to October 1993 I was backpacking through Europe with two friends, Lee Gagne and Natalie Roussy. We had Euro-rail passes and travelled pretty much everywhere in Europe. In Rome, I made a special request to go looking for the statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi. Why? I was taking European history at Carleton and learned he was a national hero who had helped establish the unification of Italy in 1860. All I had was a couple of paragraphs on his history (as this was pre-internet).
We spent the day trudging up and down some hills, stopping for beer and wine, and we never did find the statue.
Roll Forward 2017
So I am in Rome again and decide to go for a special run one morning where I will find the Garibaldi statue. Setting out on my run, with no map, I have a general idea where it is located. Well, 15.5 km later no Garibaldi – although I did find the battle site, Janiculum Hill, where Garibaldi with his volunteer force fought off soldiers of the French Republic for the entire month of June in 1849. Significantly outnumbered he withdrew his forces in July and spent the next ten years fighting in Northern Italy until peace was established. He then moved south and conquered Naples and Sicily proclaiming Victor Emanuelle the Second, King of United Italy in 1860.
We left Rome for Firenze and off I go for my morning run and low and behold I stop just short of the US Consulate. I see a statue and decide to run towards it – yep – Garibaldi. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera so no photo. I’ll be back thinking to myself – but no – not this time.
Well, great. I finally have the statue but no photo. I put it all behind me after we get on the cruise ship and head for South America.
In Montevideo, Uruguay we are walking to the hotel and whammo – his statue, larger than life, is in front of me.
Garibaldi was a bit of a hot head in his youth and after a failed attempt at a coup in Piedmont he escaped to France and then South America where he served in the Navy of the Rio de Grande de Sol to win freedom from the Brazilian empire. Later, he settled in Montevideo and through the influence of his wife adopted the “Gaucho” style (South American Cowboy) which included a Red Shirt, poncho, and sombrero.
His house in Montevideo is now a museum, although it was closed when I went by, and it is in very poor condition.
Garibaldi became a school teacher until he took up the cause to fight for the independence of Uruguay against Argentina. He was successful as a Naval Captain but more importantly with other Italian expatriates, who adopted his red shirt, he used guerrilla tactics and won two major battles securing independence for Uruguay.
Leaving behind Uruguay we made our way to Cordoba and another statue of Garibaldi appears. He is a national hero and venerated throughout South America.
One of the Great Military Commanders
A Naval Captain and a Guerrilla General – Garibaldi is one of the great military leaders of our time who fought in wars on two continents with almost forty years of war-time experience (1834-1871). His statues are in Italy; Washington D.C., New York City; Russia; Bulgaria; Hungary; and Turkey. I am not aware of too many commanders who could fight at sea and on land.
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