Tucson panel rejects request to remove Pancho Villa statue

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A statue of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa will remain in downtown Tucson despite an effort by a conservative watchdog group to remove it.

Members of the Public Art and Community Design Committee last week unanimously rejected a removal request by Washington, D.C.-based Judicial Watch, the Arizona Daily Star reported Sunday.

The 14-foot (4-meter) bronze statue of Pancho Villa on a horse stands in Veinte de Agosto Park. It was a gift to the state from the Mexican government and a Mexico press group.

Judicial Watch claimed city records do not indicate that a public hearing was held to hear complaints about the statue before it was unveiled in 1981. Mark Spencer, the Phoenix-based coordinator of Judicial Watch’s Southwest Projects, advocated for the removal, saying three Tucson residents approached him for help in voicing their complaint.

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Spencer said the statue “needs to go” because “Pancho Villa did great harm to people.”

Following the meeting, Spencer said he would consult with his legal team to see if the panel adhered to city policies

The committee, which manages the city’s public art collection, said the request did not meet any of the 10 criteria used to consider removing public art, such as damage or a request from the artist.

A dozen residents gave statements in defense of the statute during the meeting, pointing to its aesthetic value and role in celebrating local Mexican-American culture.

“We don’t want to forget that history, that history that is grounded in Mexican-ness,” said Lydia Otero, a professor of Mexican-American studies at the University of Arizona.

“Each person that walks up to the statue has to ask questions about why this statue is here, right downtown,” Otero said. “And they have to come up with their own answers. You know why? Because we are Tucson and it is complicated.”

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Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.tucson.com

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