Texas History

After Council Speed Bump, Adelfa Callejo Statue Back on Track

Adelfa Callejo seems set to finally get her statue.
Adelfa Callejo seems set to finally get her statue. Valerie Jimenez via YouTube
There's something about public memorials Dallas can't get quite right. Sure, Robert E. Lee has been kicked out of Turtle Creek Park, but the traitorous general's fellow travelers are still standing, albeit shielded from public view, on Pioneer Plaza near City Hall. Efforts to take down both memorials to treason faced roadblock after roadblock. Tuesday, the city took steps to avoid a memorial snafu of a different kind.

Turning the clock way back to November, the City Council appeared set to take up the case of a donated statue of civic pioneer Adelfa Callejo. The plan, signed off on by the foundation representing Callejo's memory and the appropriate boards and commissions, was to drop the $100,000 bronze inside the terminal at Dallas' Love Field, moving the airport's Texas Ranger statue to baggage claim in the process.

Then it didn't happen. Adam Medrano, the City Council member who represents Love Field, moved to delay the vote and send it back to committee. The Council, showing its usual deference to members acting on projects slated for their districts, signed off on Medrano's delay request.

After Medrano's move, which shocked Callejo supporters, council member Chad West told The Dallas Morning News about some personal beef between Medrano, the scion of one of Dallas' most politically involved Hispanic families, and Callejo, the first Latina to graduate from SMU Law School.

“We’re definitely going to let him take the lead on that,” West said of Medrano. “But … I think everyone deserves a hearing, and we should hear all sides.”

Medrano did not comment on or explain his decision to move the vote.

The City Council's Quality of Life and Arts Committee got things back on track yesterday. Rather than having the statue greet passengers at the airport, the committee signed off on placing the statue — the first public statue depicting a woman in Dallas history — in Main Street Garden Park in downtown Dallas.

"What makes Main Street Garden stick out is that Mrs. Callejo was about education, she was a civil rights lawyer ... She was especially about making sure that Latinas, people who were about to become lawyers, that they got educated and then they went to college," council member Omar Narvaez said.

That why it's so appropriate, Narvaez said, that her statue will be situated between the University of North Texas' downtown campus and Dallas' municipal courthouse.

Dallas County Community College District Trustee Monica Bravo, a board member for Callejo's foundation, said the foundation also approved of the new location.

"We would really love to be able to celebrate her and share her with the city of Dallas." — Monica Bravo

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"We would love for her statue to be in a prominent location like Main Street Garden," Bravo said. "We would really love to be able to celebrate her and share her with the city of Dallas."

Callejo's career as an activist spanned more than 40 years prior to her death in 2014. She helped lead protests after a Dallas cop murdered 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez in 1973 and fought for the City Council's single-member district structure in the '90s. She gained fame of a different kind when she said during the 2008 presidential primary that then-candidate Barack Obama's problem with Hispanic voters was, simply, that he was black. A Dallas ISD elementary school bearing Callejo's name opened in 2013.

The City Council is expected to give final approval to the statue next month. That was true in October, too.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young