SACRAMENTO – Among tall trees and nestled on a pillar stands El Soldado or as it has more recently been called, the Mexican American Veterans Memorial.
This monument to the gallant and patriotic military service of Latino/Hispanic veterans is well on its way to receiving a much needed facelift thanks to the commitment from individuals and organizations alike.
The Wells Fargo Foundation is the latest such organization to demonstrate its commitment, not just to veterans and their families, but also to the monuments that showcase their patriotic service.
“On behalf of all veterans, but especially Latino/Hispanic veterans, we are proud to accept this $50,000 donation from the Wells Fargo Foundation,” said Peter J. Gravett, CalVet secretary. “This donation allows us to take a giant step forward in our quest to beautify and enhance El Soldado.”
California is home to approximately 1.8 million veterans of which nearly 272,000 are Hispanic/Latino. El Soldado/the Mexican American Veterans Memorial serves as a testament to the service and contributions of these Hispanic/Latino veterans.
This memorial is the only monument nationally recognizing the military contributions of Latino veterans from all branches of the military to be located on state capitol grounds.
The Mexican American Beautification and Enhancement Committee and the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) are diligently working to raise $800,000 to complete the renovations needed by El Soldado.
The Memorial Committee and CalVet have established a plan that would fund and construct the enhancements in three stages at the following levels, respectively: $300,000, $500,000 and $800,000.
According to their input, each stage would look like a completed memorial, but each new stage would add significant enhancements to the design or landscaping of the prior stage.
Tax deductible donations to El Soldado, the Mexican American Veterans Memorial can be sent to: California Mexican American Veterans' Memorial, C/O California Department of Veterans Affairs, 1227 O St., Sacramento, CA 95814.
Shortly after the World War II armistice, a group of Mexican-American women, also known as the “Madres,” banded together to create a memorial that would honor their husbands and sons who had died during their military service during the war.
Beginning in 1948, the Madres launched a fundraising drive to finance the memorial. Their efforts included selling homemade tamales and conducting raffle sales at their local church parishes and other venues.
Dedicated in May 1951, the memorial consisted of a statue of a solitary infantryman. Known as “El Soldado,” the statue stood on the grounds of the Mexican American Center in Sacramento.
Weathered and worn over time, El Soldado remained at this site for decades until the location was rezoned by local government.
The statue was donated to the State of California with the expectation that it would become an official and permanent state memorial.
In 1975, El Soldado was moved to its present location across the street from the Main (West) entrance to the State Capitol.