DALLAS – Mayor Eric Johnson, City Council Member Jesse Moreno, Dallas Park and Recreation Board President Arun Agarwal, and community leaders today dedicated a new public artwork to memorialize Santos Rodriguez, a 12-year-old boy killed almost 50 years ago during a Dallas Police Department interrogation.
“Santos Rodriguez should still be with us today,” Mayor Johnson said. “But I am pleased that this new artwork will celebrate Santos’ life and ensure that his memory endures in our city. We also hope this wonderful statue will serve as a living monument that reflects our ability to acknowledge the horrors of our past while working to build a better future for everyone.”
The Rodriguez family – including Santos’ mother – joined elected and appointed officials at a remembrance ceremony that attracted more than 300 people to Pike Park.
“The dedication of the Santos Rodriguez statue is a great and momentous — and long-overdue — event in the history of our city,” said Moreno. “Dallas — which waited 40 years to apologize to the family of Santos Rodriguez following his tragic murder in 1973 — has shown, at long last, courage and the political willingness to face one of its darkest historical events, to admit pain and wrongdoing, to apologize, and to finally memorialize the life of one of its most innocent and youngest residents.”
The sculpture was created by Cedar Hill artist Seth Vandable, whose background in painting combined with years of studying human anatomy have contributed to his international success as a sculptor. His work is found in private and public collections worldwide.
The bronze sculpture depicts Santos smiling with open arms and towering above nondescript figures surrounding his legs. The 7’½” artwork sits on a natural slate stone base. Wanting to address this tragedy through art “to help move Dallas forward,” like his other works, Vendable’s Santos Rodriguez strives to capture the intensity of the human spirit in compositions that are both innovative and timeless.
Dallas parks are home to more than 100 site-specific distinctive public art installations. “The uniqueness of each of the artworks accentuates the outdoor spaces where it is located, adding a certain flair to the park’s personality,” said Agarwal. “Placing this magnificent tribute to Santos is certainly significant to this park. Pike Park is where he played soccer and participated in recreation programs here at the recreation center. Where Santos stands now will be a place of remembrance and healing for anyone who visits the park.”
Rodriguez’s shooting shocked Dallas and the nation, erupting Dallas and other cities in riots and civil unrest. This began Dallas’ Chicano movement and inspired members of the Latino/a/x community to become more active in civic, social, and political issues.
“The sculpture serves to remind present and future generations that human life and dignity are sacred, symbolized by figures at the base representing the Latinx community,” said Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Coordinator Drema Chavez.