Those who vandalized the El Soldado statue at the State Capitol on July 4 reflected a lack of understanding as to what it represents.
The statue, formally known as the California Mexican-American Veterans Memorial, honors Mexican-American soldiers who fought and died during World War II.
“This simple monument was built by mothers, daughters, and families of heroes who went off to fight in World War II,” said, Vito Imbasciani MD, Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs. “No vandal can damage the spirit of El Soldado, who stands to honor the past, current, and future minority veterans who serve their country with distinction and honor.”
El Soldado, in fact, is the only memorial dedicated to Mexican-American veterans in the entire United States. It was created in 1948 when “La Sociedad de Madres” (Society of Mothers), a group of hard-working women – mothers, grandmothers, and sisters – who dedicated themselves for many years hosting fundraisers until they were able to raise the money to buy the marble stone carved statue from Italy for $4,000.
Dedicated in 1951 at what was once Sacramento’s Mexican-American Center, the statue was moved in the 1970s, then relocated again to its current location facing the State Capitol in 1990.
Experts removed the statue for restoration in September 2016, repairing his broken rifle and cleaning off years of dirt and mold. Shortly after removal, CalVet and the Department of General Services began a yearlong expansion project of the memorial’s plaza. Improvements included enlarging the pedestal and installing ADA compliant sidewalks.
The damage to the marker reflects little understanding of why the statue stands, Imbasciani said.
“I am deeply saddened and troubled by the crass vandalism of this significant minority veterans memorial,” he said. “Monument disputes are not exclusive to the 21st century as memorial landscapes have been profoundly transformed during political upheavals throughout history. However, vandalism of a memorial dedicated to Mexican American and Latino veterans – men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces in war and in peace – is heartbreaking.”
Damage to the statue came during an otherwise peaceful protest by the vast majority of demonstrators, but with acts of vandalism by others who tore down the statue of Father Junipero Serra, a Spanish Missionary in the 1700s. The state this week removed the statue of Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella from the Capitol Rotunda, while Sutter Health recently removed its statue of John Sutter. All were known for their abuses of Native Americans.