City Commits $100,000 for MacArthur Park Monument to Romero

Supporters of the plan will have to raise another $250,000 to honor the slain Salvardoran cleric; plans also include recognition of other Central American nations whose migrants have made neighborhood west of Downtown a center of culture and commerce from the region.
MacArthur Park Monument to Archbishop Oscar Romero
Conceptual design for the Monseñor Romero Plaza in MacArthur Park

Hopes of honoring the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador with a monument in MacArthur Park got a recent boost when the board of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) agreed to provide $100,000 if other supporters can raise another $250,000 for the project.

Plans call for the monument to occupy a place at the southeast corner of MacArthur Park, at 7th and Alvarado Streets. Supporters of the project have said the monument would include a bronze statue of Romero, a spire with ascending doves, curved stone benches, and tributes to the six other Central American countries — Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica.

MacArthur Park is located in the Westlake Redevelopment Project Area, which is operated by CRA/LA and covers the densely packed residential and business district immediately west of Downtown. Westlake is home to large number of immigrants form El Salvador and other Central American nations. The area immediately surrounding MacArthur Park is a focal point of the Salvadoran/American community, with many restaurants, shops and cultural organizations on nearby streets.

Romero served as the leading cleric in El Salvador — a predominantly Roman Catholic country — during the turbulence of civil war and social unrest there during the 1970s. An assailant gunned Romero down on March 24, 1980 as he celebrated mass in a church in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador. The attack came after Romero called for an end to violence by government forces against the people of El Salvador. No one has ever been arrested for the killing.

Archbishop Oscar Romero

Romero has become an icon on Salvadoran culture for many who regard him as a martyr for social justice, and his candidacy for sainthood is under consideration by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church.

The $100,000 grant — if approved by the Los Angeles City Council — would go to the Salvadoran American Leadership and Education Fund (SALEF), a non-profit organization that is overseeing efforts to build the monument to Romero. Carlos Antonio H. Vaquerano, who serves as executive director of SALEF, said the organization is working on various fundraising projects to raise the $250,000 for the monument.

Bruce D. Ackerman, who serves as chair of CRA/LA's seven-member board of mayoral appointees, said the agency views the $100,000 contribution to the monument as worthy aid to add an important distinction to the cityscape of Westlake.

"Los Angeles, and especially MacArthur Park, has a large Salvadoran and Central American population," said Bruce D. Ackerman. "By assisting with the monument to Archbishop Romero and other Central American heroes, CRA/LA will help recognize and inspire one of the city's largest and most vibrant communities."

1st District Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes, who represents the much of the Westlake district, including MacArthur Park, indicated his support of the $100,000 grant.

"MacArthur Park is a popular spot for people throughout Los Angeles, especially those from the Central American community," said Councilmember Ed P. Reyes. "The monument will not only serve the Central American community, but it will also offer Angelenos insight into the rich history and culture of our diverse city."

"The location of the monument also reflects the diaspora of the Salvadoran community into the U.S. a result of the injustices and the violation of human rights against which Archbishop Romero courageously fought," added Carlos Antonio H. Vaquerano, who serves as executive director of SALEF. "His story offers an enduring legacy for all those who labor to empower others."

CRA/LA will require backers to secure the balance of financing to complete the project, among other conditions, before releasing the $100,000 grant.

More information on the monument can be found at salef.org on the Internet.

Jerry Sullivan is editor of the L.A. Garment & Citizen.

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