Controversy over downtown statue of Pancho Villa

(Source: Tucson News Now)
(Source: Tucson News Now)(None (custom credit))
Updated: Dec. 11, 2018 at 6:52 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Judicial Watch, a conservative activist group, has requested the city of Tucson remove the 14-foot tall, seven ton statue of Pancho Villa from the Viente de Agosto Park downtown.

Judicial Watch says the statue is a threat to public safety, there is overwhelming opposition to it and the city failed to follow the proper process when it accepted the statue from Mexico in 1981.

The statue was a gift to the state of Arizona but when the Governor could not find a place for it in Phoenix, a Tucson group asked that it be placed in Tucson.

Judicial Watch has asked the city to produce records of the process it followed when accepting the statue but a person from the city the said records from that time are spotty at best.

The request to remove the statue follows on the heels of several statue removals in the South which represent the Civil War era.

Judicial Watch says the request is not cultural, however, it is process oriented. That is disputed by supporters of the statue.

Roberto Rodriquez, a professor of Mexican studies at the University of Arizona said "it's tit for tat."

"Charlottesville, the Robert E Lee statue, etc, etc," he said. "They lose one, they says lets take it out on somebody else."

He says it's a sign of the times and "I think that's what this is all about."

The statue has generated its share of controversy and challenges over the years. A legal effort to get it removed in 1983 failed when the courts dismissed the case. Another attempt in 1987 also failed.

The argument against the statue is the opinion some people have of the revolutionary general and his legacy runs from hero to murderer.

Ward 1 City Council member Regina Romero said “I have a hard time defending Pancho Villa.”

But Ward 6 Council Member Steve Kozachik says “it’s a work of art" and deserves to stay.

“I’m not defending Pancho Villa in terms of what he stood for,” he said. "But it’s been there 40 years and it can continue to be there for another 40 years."

The Arts Federation of Tucson and Pima County will discuss the request from Judicial Watch and can make a recommendation as to whether it stays or goes.

But the final decision will likely fall to the Tucson City Council.

When the statue was dedicated, Mayor Lew Murphy and Council Member Roy Laos, both Republicans, did not attend.

You can find a comprehensive history of the statue here.

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