Bronze sculptures of prominent figures have been stolen over the years from a park in the Lincoln Heights area of Los Angeles.
Some statues that have gone missing from El Parque de Mexico include Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa, former Mexican president Benito Juárez, and actor and singer Agustín Lara. According to NBC News, 20 statues and plaques, which the Mexican government donated, are missing.
“It hurt me as a Mexican American to know that something like that could be allowed to happen, something of that grandeur to be allowed to just be destroyed,” Frank Villalobos, an original architect of the park, told NBC News.
Villalobos added that only five statues remain but only because they are too large to move. “It’s a direct hit to the Mexican population of Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights,” Villalobos said. “The only thing that they couldn’t take are the heavy things like horses, full standing figures – but given enough time and they’ll take those down, too.”
According to NBC News, the first statues and plaques were installed in the late 1970s “to promote the cultural heritage of the Mexican American community” and “demonstrate goodwill between the U.S. and Mexico.”
Other statues that have gone missing over the years include revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata; former Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas; poet and author Ramón López Velarde; and Aztec ruler Cuauhtémoc.
Officials are currently working with the city’s department of recreation and parks to decide if they should replace the statues and, if so, how to protect them in the future.