Thieves Target Lincoln Heights Memorial

By Gloria Angelina Castillo EGP Staff Writer

Mexican/American cultural treasures located at a Lincoln Heights area park appear to be the latest target of precious metal thieves, but no one seems to know for sure when the plaques commemorating Mexican military, revolutionary and cultural heroes —some who made their marks when California was still part of Mexico — went missing.

At least five plaques identifying large bronze busts are missing from Lincoln Park’s El Parque de Mexico, located at the intersection of East Valley, North Mission Road and North Main Street. According to information gleaned from the website of Congressman Xavier Becerra, the area “was dedicated to promote the surrounding community’s cultural heritage and demonstrate goodwill between the United States and Mexico.”

Authorities speculate the plaques were stolen for their metal content and sold off by thieves looking for quick cash.

EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

Thieves are also believed to have recently made off with metal piping from Lincoln Park’s restrooms, according to park staff.

Police have no information regarding the alleged theft and vandalism at the site, according to Hollenbeck Detective Bill Eagleson, who informed EGP that the theft was never reported to Hollenbeck police.

Last year, several bronze plaques were stolen from the All Wars veteran’s memorial in Boyle Heights. At the time, Eagleson and members of the veteran community were hopeful that the plaques had been taken by collectors instead of being melted down, their whereabouts, however, are still unknown.

The theft of copper and other valuable metals has been rampant in the city and county, with library, bridges, streetlights and manhole covers being stolen.

El Parque de Mexico’s main traffic island, with its oval shaped plaza and pedestals around the outer edges, was possibly an easy target for vandals, since the area generally appears in disrepair, with missing tiles, piles of debris, a wooden plaque partially covering a gap in the entrance sidewalk, an out of service drinking fountain, and a broken and tagged wooden sign.

On Monday, a plaque paying tribute to General Ignacio Zaragoza, a field commander who helped defeat the conservative forces led by the Catholic Church in War of the Reform (1858-1861), was visibly damaged, having been partially pulled off its base.

Besides Zaragoza’s, only two busts at the site still have their corresponding plaques: Mexican Revolution hero Pancho Villa, who lived from 1878 to 1923; and Lazaro Cardenas del Rio, a Mexican president who lived from 1895 to 1970.

Other statues, some larger than life, located in and around El Parque de Mexico appear undamaged.

According to Barrio Planner’s lead architect Frank Villalobos the busts were donated by Mexican states as part of a cultural exchange project between the Mexican Consulate and the Los Angeles based Comite Mexicano Civico Patriotico, popularly known for their sponsorship of the East Los Angeles 16th of September/ Diecisies de Septiembre Mexican Independence Day parade.

Twenty bronze busts in all were supposed to be erected at the site and their corresponding cement pedestal bases needed to hold them were installed at the spot. However, not all 20 busts were ever installed.

EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

This is not the first time thieves have targeted the memorial park, according to Villalobos, who told EGP that Pancho Villa’s “head” (bust) was stolen only to turn up sometime later in someone’s backyard. Another large plaque was stolen soon after it was installed, he added.

According to Los Angeles Councilman Ed Reyes’ office, the plaques were stolen months ago, but police reports were never filed with the Hollenbeck Police Department, charged with policing the area. No explanation was given for why it was not reported.

Former Lincoln Park Senior Recreation Director Karen King, who was the supervisor at the park during the past four months but has since been transferred, said she tried to keep an eye on the monuments since EGP brought the issue to her attention last year. King told EGP thieves took the backflow brass equipment at the park’s restroom located along Mission Road; the restrooms are now out of service.

However, El Parque, unlike the rest of Lincoln Park, is not under the direction of the city’s department of recreation and parks, but is maintained by L.A.’s department of public works. The statues are under the charge of the cultural affairs departments, which as of press time was unable to respond to EGP’s inquiry into the thefts.

Celia Guillen, a 78-year-old resident enjoying the sun at the park on Monday afternoon, expressed disgust and anger over the precious metal theft: “How barbaric,” she said in Spanish.

As of Wednesday, it was unclear if any effort would be made to replace the plaques, or if police would receive formal notification of their theft.

Missing Plaques:

—Ramon Lopez Velarde: one of Mexico’s’ greatest poets, he lived from 1881 to1921.

—J. Jesus Gonzalez Ortega: another field commander who helped defeat the conservative forces lead by the Catholic Church in War of Reform, he lived from 1822 to 1881.

—Doña Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez: an initial supporter of the struggle for Mexican Independence from Spain. She lived from 1768 to 1829.

—Guadalupe Victoria: soldier in the Mexican Revolution who became Mexico’s first elected President. He lived from 1786 to 1843.

—Francisco I. Madero: Mexican president and revolutionary leader, he lived from 1873 to 1913.

—Venustiano Carranza: a leader of the Mexican Revolution who later became president. He lived from 1859 to 1920.

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February 14, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


2 Responses to “Thieves Target Lincoln Heights Memorial”

  1. laallmylife on February 14th, 2013 7:12 pm

    It doesn’t surprise me one bit! I give props to the councilman and others for putting effort in trying to revive our history and culture. The reality is that the park is mostly overrun by homeless and druggies! There is hardly any police presence more like never! In the past there has been other incidents, not surprising! What is also not surprising is that there were no reports written! Well it is LAPD

  2. Lincoln Heights Resident on February 16th, 2013 4:00 pm

    It breaks my heart to see this in and to fall victim of this disrespect to our community surrounding.
    I hope people that see these acts happen report it to right authorities.
    So much vandalism goes unreported that we should vigilant and take pride in our Community to make it a better place for everyone.
    So sorry to see this-

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