Mexican Statue Seeks Good Home

When the governor of the Mexican state of Morelos donated a statue of Emiliano Zapata to the city of Minneapolis over the summer, the local Mexican community greeted the event with fanfare. But it hasn't been easy to find a place to put the statue, as local Mexican community leader Eduardo Salgado reveals.

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LUKE BURBANK, host:

Well, it was supposed to be a sort of modern-day Statue of Liberty - a bronze statue of the Mexican revolutionary hero, Emiliano Zapata. It was given to the City of Minneapolis by the governor of the Mexican state of Morelos. There was a party and fanfare. The local Mexican-American community showed up.

Well, three months later, the statue sits in the window of a check-cashing place on Lake Street. And it may be there for a while. So what happened? Well, a bunch of things, actually. And here to tell us about them is Eduardo Salgado. He's a member of Club Morelos, for citizens from that Mexican state. And he runs some money-transfer stores in Minneapolis. Hi, Eduardo.

Mr. EDUARDO SALGADO (President, Club Morelos): Good morning, Luke.

BURBANK: Good morning. Thanks for coming on. I know it's a little bit early in Minneapolis.

Mr. SALGADO: Yeah. It's early. But that's all right.

BURBANK: Oh, good. I know you get up early, I'm sure, to run those money-transfer stores. Tell me about the statue. How big is it? Whose idea was it?

Mr. SALGADO: Well, the whole project just started like, say, two years ago. Most of the immigrants - new immigrants on Minneapolis area come from the State of Morelos. And the Club Morelos thought that it might be nice having some Mexican representation somehow around. And while Club Morelos came with the idea of having a statue for Emiliano Zapata, which I'm sure most of your audience knows is a big, big Mexican folk hero for…

BURBANK: That he was a revolutionary hero in the early 1900s, and he's actually from Morelos, right?

Mr. SALGADO: Right. I'm actually from Morelos. So we started some communication with government - the government of the state of Morelos. And at certain point, governor of the state of Morelos granted the statue to us.

BURBANK: Well, so the governor brings the statue up, and you guys think this is great. This is some, you know, Morelos pride and the great bridge being built. But somehow, they won't let you guys put the statue anywhere? It's sitting at a check-cashing place? Why won't they let you put the statue in a park?

Mr. SALGADO: Well, that's the sad part of this story. We got the - we tried to unveil the statue down at Powderhorn Park.

BURBANK: Uh-huh.

Mr. SALGADO: Which is very close to Lake Street, which is the heart of the Mexican community in Minneapolis.

BURBANK: Uh-huh.

Mr. SALGADO: And then, well, somehow, we were suggested to have our unveiling on a very discreet fashion.

BURBANK: So they basically didn't want you to make a big deal out of the unveiling?

Mr. SALGADO: No. They told us, please be discreet. Have your unveiling and send - get your statue back where, basically, where it came from until we work on a place to place the statue.

And well, if - I'm sure you know Mexicans are a lot of things, but we are not discreet. We are family people. We are…

BURBANK: You said it. You said it, not me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SALGADO: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I know. And, well, we tend to make a big party out of everything. And when it comes to our heroes, well, we certainly do make a big deal out of it. So we didn't really feel like unveiling our statue on a very discreet manner. So we unveiled…

BURBANK: So you made a big party out of it. But then what - why, specifically, why don't they - why won't they let you put it in the park right now? Why is it sitting at a check-cashing store and not in Powderhorn Park?

Mr. SALGADO: Well, it's sitting on a check-cashing store because that's the only place, so far, who allowed us to store it, the statue.

BURBANK: And it can't - I read somewhere that they don't want it in the park, at least not yet, because of all these things it has to pass. It has be vandal-proof, the statue, because he's wearing bullets across his chest and, you know, kind of like a string of bullets like what they would use in those days, and because it needs to pass some sort of public art inspection. Has it frustrated you to find out about all these things that make it harder to just put the statue in than you thought?

Mr. SALGADO: Well, we are having a lot of help. We are have having some liaisons, like Tina Tavera, working on - and allow me to say this - working on the bureaucratic part of placing the statue. But mostly, we have felt some (unintelligible) rejection from some of the neighbors.

Personally, I consider we have been cleaning the park. And we have been cleaning the area, having Mexican families gathering down the park, people playing soccer and, you know, your basic Latino stuff going on in the park, from my point of view, has been helping to get rid of gangs and bad influences around.

BURBANK: But you feel like there's an undercurrent of racial suspicion among the local population - the non-Mexican population?

Mr. SALGADO: For months, I had been rejecting the word - I'm sorry - the word racism around this subject. But it comes to a point where you go like, oh, my God. Why don't you just tell us you don't want us around? That may be. That might be…

BURBANK: Well, Eduardo, we're going to have to fix that up at a later date. We want to find out what happens with the statue, though. Thanks for coming on.

Eduardo Salgado, member of Club Morelos, citizen of the Mexican state of Morelos. They now live in the Twin Cities, who would like to see their statue of Emiliano Zapata up. Although, right now, it looks like that might a long way off.

Mr. SALGADO: I want to thank for the opportunity. Anytime.

BURBANK: Thank you, Eduardo.

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