Capitol Alert

It took nine years, but California’s ‘El Soldado’ memorial finally got fixed

The refurbished El Soldado memorial includes a new plaza and expanded statute base with the names of Medal of Honor recipients.
The refurbished El Soldado memorial includes a new plaza and expanded statute base with the names of Medal of Honor recipients. akoseff@sacbee.com

A nine-year odyssey to refurbish the aging California Mexican American Veterans Memorial is finally complete.

“El Soldado,” as it’s also known, stands at attention on 10th Street, facing the Capitol. Originally constructed in 1951, the memorial was financed by Sacramento-area wives and mothers who raised money through church raffles and selling homemade tamales to commemorate their husbands and sons who fought in World War II.

Over the years, however, the statue deteriorated: The barrel of El Soldado’s gun broke, the strap of his helmet went missing and he cracked and molded.

So in 2008, a committee formed to rehabilitate and upgrade the memorial. When it is rededicated, 10 a.m. today at the corner of 10th Street and Capitol Mall, it will also include a new plaza and an expanded base listing more than 60 Mexican-Americans from California who have received the Medal of Honor, dating back to the Civil War.

Dan Contreras, chair of the memorial committee, said the statute stands not just for veterans, but for their families who also sacrificed. Its rededication comes amid National Hispanic Heritage Month.

“We took a dilapidated, weathered, just really disgraceful piece of history and have improved it,” he said. “This is something that’s a legacy.”

The project design was modified slightly to accommodate disability access standards and drought regulations. But Contreras said the biggest reason it took so long was fundraising, which started slowly when the committee launched its efforts in the middle of the economic recession and then never seemed to pick up.

The committee ultimately raised about $450,000, largely from institutional donors like Wells Fargo, though Contreras said the project would not have been possible without significantly more in-kind contributions from management company Vanir Construction Management, Inc. and others.

“I couldn’t understand why people were not embracing the project,” he said. “I’ve been involved in an $84 million memorial project, and that was a lot easier than this.”

Welcome to the AM Alert, your morning rundown on California policy and politics. To receive it regularly, please sign up here.

WORTH REPEATING: “I’m either the most amazing serial killer you’ve met, or maybe they’re a little off.” – Hillary Clinton, at her UC Davis book event, discussing fake news articles about her

DREAM ON: Congressional efforts to protect hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children were complicated this week when President Donald Trump issued a new set of demands that he said must be included in any deal. Many of the items – from a border wall to revoking federal grants for “sanctuary cities” – are anathema to Democrats, who are pushing a path to citizenship for the young immigrants known as the Dream Act. Sen. Kamala Harris will join the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, the Korean Resource Center and others to rally support for the bill, 10:30 a.m. at UC Irvine.

BY THE NUMBERS: California brought in $10.9 billion in tax revenues in September, according to Controller Betty Yee, exceeding state budget projections by half a percent. That brings total revenues, including personal income, retail sales and corporation taxes, for the fiscal year so far to $25.9 billion, about 2.3 percent above budget estimates.

WALK THIS WAY: Over the past decade, California has worked to position itself as a leader – first nationally, then globally – on fighting climate change. The state is now aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. So how are those efforts going? Juliann Allison, a professor of gender and sexuality studies at UC Riverside, discusses California’s path to a carbon-neutral future, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

MUST READ: Board of Equalization member Jerome Horton urged speedy hiring of new employees in late 2012 to get them on the state payroll before pension changes took effect.

MUST WATCH: L.A .Mayor Eric Garcetti talks about his political future.

WHAT IT TAKES: The election is 13 months away, and the field may not even be settled yet, but it’s never too soon to turn your attention to the open gubernatorial race that will likely dominate California politics next year. (After all, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has already been running for two-and-a-half years.) A panel discussion hosted by the Institute of Governmental Studies, 4 p.m. at UC Berkeley, will dive into the key factors influencing the campaign, with insight courtesy of The Bee’s political editor Amy Chance, as well as former Assemblyman Ted Lempert, data guru Paul Mitchell and Jessica Trounstine, a political science professor at UC Merced.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated at 10:40 a.m. Oct. 11, 2017 to correct the name of Vanir Construction Management, Inc.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

  Comments