A Statue for the Plaza – Finally

Well, it seems like it is time for action.  All the votes are in and the campaign is over.  Let’s get on with it.  The “it” is a decision to honor the history of our City, and those who have made it, in a suitable and respectful way.

Basically, that can be done with a commemoration of one of the finest and most laudable individuals in the recorded history of our home: Cesar Chavez.  He is a man to be proud of, a secular saint.  He is a person who sacrificed everything, even his health, to improve the lot of his fellow man.  He is an exemplar of what a committed life should be.  The Jesuits say it best - he was and remains “a man for others.”

This is a suitable and appropriate way for our community to honor such a man and fill an angry, gaping wound in the center of our Downtown.  It might include as other of our finest monuments nationally, and the excellent Veterans’ Memorial on Park Avenue, his words, his life story, photos, and tales of the lives that he touched and changed.

It could be at once instructive and inspirational.

And we must not skimp on the cost. Remember, the monies for it come from the two percent arts fund, not from police or library resources, and it “must “ be spent on art, and art only. So no nonsense about taking bullets from cops or books from little children!  The battle will be between the aesthetic fascists who only want modern art, ethereal, colorful works of art,  largely inscrutable to most. They will be allied to those so fearful of our history and of any criticism or controversy that they are ossified.  They must not prevail – again.

It will also be necessary to find a cadre of dedicated Council members who are not too timid to seize the day.  Firm direction should be given to the art establishment to search for the best artists and demand their best work.  Nothing else will suit the situation. If this happens, more such lives can be commemorated – courage begets courage.  Now is time to give our city the type of art it deserves and to create a new beginning in dealing with and learning from our rich history.

14 Comments

  1. A tribute to this great man by the city in which he spent many years has been far too long in arriving.  Let’s hope the political battle,and the process don’t last too long.

  2. I can’t think of intelligent person opposing—
    a Statue in St. James Park of Bobby Kennedy, who had a rally there in March of 1968, is also worthwhile to remember his ideals.

    Having the Martin Luther King Library, Cesar Chavez Park and Robert Kennedy Memorial would say a lot about the real values of the people of San Jose.

  3. Tom, it makes perfect sense for the plaza to have a likeness of its namesake displayed prominently there.  It’s also encouraging to know that our city’s new person in charge of public art feels that quetzalcoatl is “poorly sited” and wants to move it (sorry but that thing just invites double meanings).  Let’s hope she has a thick skin if moving quetzie out is part of the larger plan to put Mr. Chavez in there.  Seems like a no-brainer to me, but I’m sure there will be brainless types who will make a stink about disturbing quetzie.

  4. I love the idea of a statue of Caesar Chavez in the Plaza, and I have no quarrel with using the city arts fund to pay for it. But I would not mind seeing additional funding from the business community,  nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. Would it not also be appropriate for labor to contribute to this tribute to a labor leader?
    Then the monument would truly be a community tribute to a great man.

  5. Bobby Kennedy?

    I just tested that one with my bay area diversity litmus paper and detected the following problems:
    1.  He’s white. 
    2.  He’s white.

    How in the wide world of political correctness does that help us in our quest for the diversity grail?

  6. As much as I think Bobby Kennedy deserves recognition, he never made it to President and so I would think there’d have to be more of a connection to San Jose than just a campaign stop, which I also attended in St. James Park back in 1968.  I don’t think being white would be an issue since he championed causes for all non-white groups.  But I also don’t think that because McKinley spoke there and got a statue that we need to do it for Mr. Kennedy.  That might prompt Santa Clara to put a likeness of Nixon somewhere, since he delivered a campaign speech at Buck Shaw stadium!  Don’t think it couldn’t happen—we’re talking Santa Clara here!

  7. Tom:
    If you study your history correctly and place that knowledge in the context of how communities can commemorate their history, you’d realize that the importance of Plaza Park is that it IS the Plaza of our historic city. It’s what is called now a “Traditional Cultural Property (TCP)”, meaning that its significance is within its relationship to the historic beliefs, customs, and practices of our community that have been passed down through generations since the Plaza first evolved within the second pueblo site in the 1790s. Ever since the United States acquired California from Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, waves of community leaders during the American period have exploited the Plaza with important symbols of their times. Many of these symbols have unfortunately been lost, but the Plaza remains the Plaza. The recent attempts to overlay contemporary symbolism, whether it be your interpretation of Fallons’ importance to our history, the very important imagery of Quetzalcoatl in the context of San Jose’s largest ethnic group, or attaching Cesar Chavez’s name to the site – all these overlays are secondary to the importance of the Plaza to our city. The only real risk to our TCP was when RDA ED Susan Shick wanted to turn it into a massive underground parking garage to help induce the Palladium Group to invest in San Jose.

    By politically pushing for a literal art project to be imposed on the Plaza, you limit the creativity of our artists to truly commemorate the work of Cesar Chavez. My vote would be to rename the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in his honor as a starter. The United Farmworkers Union were about the impact of commerce on workers, and the convention center is primarily about promoting commerce. Let conventioneers from throughout the United States know when they come to San Jose that this was a home of Cesar Chavez.

  8. How about a list?

    – Most expensive convention center in the US
    – Lightrail is the most heavily subsidized transit system in US
    – new CH is the most expensive city hall in the US

    Feel free to add – but they must be facts.

  9. Does everything need to be named after Chavez? At least for once something in this town is named after a dead person…not a former living politician

  10. Renaming the Convention Center Frankin?  Yeah, that is what we need to do….get over it!

    Oh and his interpretations of history?  Arent you doing the same thing???

  11. FM.

    Perfect on naming the Convis center after chavez.

    The union contracts forced upon the Convis center are a major reason why it is the most expensive place in the country (per square foot) to put on a convention event. 

    And a major reason why so many major events choose other cities over San Jose’s center. 

    “Let conventioneers from throughout the United States know when they come to San Jose that this was a home of Cesar Chavez.” (and some very greety union leaders).

    They already do know this; and choose other places to do business.

  12. The people in the city don’t give a dam just read there comments.  Forget the statues until there is some people in this city that care.  Why in god’s name would a statue of Chavez in Chavez park cause any controversy at all?  People are idiots if they’d fight to keep Quitzcotal and not place Cesar Chavez there but what else is new.

  13. Think of the photo opportunity when the San Jose Grand Prix cars rev around the Cesar Chavez Park and The Plastic Snake is surrounded by 50 port-o toilets. Every one watching on National TV will see our Cesar Chavez Park as a place to make a personal “Pit Stop”. I recommend that the port-o-toilets be painted to look like little Quetzalquatles, if they must stay.
      Another idea would be to paint them to look like foumula cars,with flames and sponsors, little checkered flags, big numbers like #1 2 since we want down town to smell like a new car,half our wish would be met, and they would blend in very nicely.
      I am always astounded whan I go to Xmas, and Music in the Park and there is The Plastic Snake dark, lonely, and yet not totally alone. Like a silent marqui, surronded by old friends named Acme.
      Rent a strip next to the hotel moved recently in the parking lot across the street to place the pot-o-toilets, on festivals and special occations.
        If any sculpture was placed there where Quetzi is, it would have to be holding it’s nose. I could have sworn The Plastic Snake was facing East when first installed. It now faces up wind.
      Until this issue is addressed, there should not be any discussion about who or what can happen there at Chavez Park.
      Just a thought on a Sunday evening!!

                    The Village Black Smith
                      Gil Hernandez