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New sculpture honors Santos Rodriguez nearly 50 years after he was killed by Dallas police

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and other city officials unveiled a statue of Santos Rodriguez Saturday.

A large crowd gathered in Pike Park on a windy, chilly Saturday morning for the dedication of a new sculpture of Santos Rodriguez. The 12-year-old boy was shot and killed by Dallas police in 1973. Since that time, Dallas' Mexican-American community and activists from around the city have worked to address police brutality.

City leaders, including Dallas City Council Member Jesse Moreno and Mayor Eric Johnson, spoke at the event. Moreno, who has advocated for a memorial for years, said it was "long overdue."

"When I see the image of Santos, I see myself," Moreno said. "I see every Latino boy who calls Dallas home. He is part of us all."

The sculpture depicts Rodriguez smiling, with his arms outstretched, with other figures underneath him reaching in different directions. Moreno hopes the sculpture is the start of more investment in the city's Little Mexico neighborhood. He's also pushing for a renovation of Pike Park's community center, now called the Santos Rodriguez Recreation Center.

A statue of Santos Rodriguez stands in Pike Park in Dallas.
Keren Carrión
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Keren Carrión
A crowd gathered in Pike Park on a windy, chilly Saturday morning for the dedication of a new sculpture of Santos Rodriguez.

Last year, Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia apologized to Rodriguez's family, nearly 50 years after his death. Albert Martinez with the Dallas Police Department spoke on behalf of Garcia at Saturday's event, saying he was humbled and ashamed.

"The shame comes from the unbearable pain and suffering caused by someone, who many years ago, was wearing my uniform," Martinez said. "He took Santos away from Bessie and the community."

Seth Vandable, the artist who designed the sculpture of Rodriguez, said he wants the site to be "a place of healing."

"Art doesn't provide answers, but hopefully it causes us to ask the right questions," Vandable said.

Watch an excerpt from the 1982 KERA documentary "Pride and Anger: A Mexican American Perspective of Dallas and Fort Worth:"

Got a tip? Email Elena Rivera at erivera@kera.org. You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

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Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.