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Dan Smith / dssmith@sacbee.com

The Mexican American Veterans Memorial, known as El Soldado, is crumbling.

AM Alert: CalVet relaunches campaign to restore El Soldado memorial

Published: Friday, Jul. 18, 2014 - 5:00 am

Now 63 years old, El Soldado is looking a little worse for wear: The barrel of his weapon is broken, the strap of his helmet is missing, and he has cracks and mold on his back.

So after years of unsuccessful efforts to repair the Mexican American Veterans Memorial – the formal name for the statue across from the Capitol honoring Latinos who served in the armed services – the California Department of Veterans Affairs is once again initiating a push to fund the project.

The memorial committee will accept a $50,000 donation from Wells Fargo during an 11 a.m. ceremony at the monument, outside the Treasurer’s Office on 10th Street, putting it more than halfway to breaking ground.

“This is our first big donation and really kicks off the cycle,” said Mirtha Villarreal, the department’s deputy secretary for minority veterans and head of the memorial committee. “We are working aggressively” to finish the restoration next year.

The project will ultimately cost $800,000, all privately funded. But once the committee raises $300,000, it can begin a first stage that includes rehabilitating El Soldado, placing him on a red marble base inscribed with the names of the Latino Medal of Honor recipients, and constructing a sidewalk connecting the memorial to 10th Street. The donation from Wells Fargo puts the funding at close to $175,000.

Efforts to repair El Soldado have been long-delayed; last month, the governor signed a bill extending the deadline for state officials to raise funds by another two years. The statue was originally constructed in 1951, after a fundraising drive by a group of Mexican-American women that included church raffles and selling homemade tamales.

VIDEO: So far, the recount has barely changed the results of the state controller's race. How long will John A. Pérez hold out?, Dan Walters asks.

ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT: Is California dazed and confused? A trio of state Republican politicians – gubernatorial nominee Neel Kashkari, Secretary of State nominee Pete Peterson and Assemblyman Travis Allen of Huntington Beach – will debate that question during a panel at the LincolnLabs Conference, an event to connect the technology and conservative political communities, 7:45 p.m. on Saturday at the W Hotel in San Francisco.

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: Dust off those desks and gavel session into order. While lawmakers are away on their summer recess, the Senate and Assembly chambers will play host to a mock legislative session for Christian high school students, part of the City on the Hill Youth Leadership Conference sponsored by Capitol Resource Institute, starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

OUT OF OFFICE: The call for President Barack Obama’s impeachment has reached Sacramento. A group called Overpasses for America is holding a series of protests across the country this weekend, including one on the north and south steps of the Capitol at 9 a.m. on Saturday, demanding Obama’s removal from office over his handling of the border crisis.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who turns 65 tomorrow.

Read more articles by Alexei Koseff



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