Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta – in bronzed and larger-than-life form – now look out over residents and visitors in downtown Napa.
The 9-foot-tall statues of the pioneering farmworker rights activists were installed early Wednesday morning in a niche above the entry of a Main Street building owned by Michael L. Holcomb, the Napa developer who sponsored the artworks.
The bronze figures look out across Main Street and Veterans Memorial Park to the Napa River and the hills to the east.
Their new display perch, above the Velo Pizzeria, is the last stop on a journey that began with the statues’ unveiling in March at a downtown ceremony attended by thousands.
Overlooking the heart of a city transformed and enriched by the wine and tourism industries, the likenesses of Huerta and Chavez – who together founded the United Farm Workers in 1962 and organized boycotts and strikes to win better pay and working conditions for field laborers – are meant to shine the spotlight on the largely Latino workers whose efforts go mostly unrecorded, according to Holcomb.
“We know all about George Yount and Robert Mondavi, but a lot of people contributed to this valley to whom no credit has been given,” he said shortly after the installation.
“Right now, we have a major divide, and I think someone should represent the Hispanic community in Napa,” said Holcomb, whose wife is a native of Monterrey, Mexico.
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“They are almost 40 percent of the county, with precious little said about the people who are our unsung heroes. My kids are half Mexican, my grandkids one-quarter or three-quarters Mexican, and I want them to go downtown and see not only one side of their heritage, but the other side.”
Holcomb and the artist, Mario Chiodo, publicly debuted the artworks March 29 at Veterans Memorial Park during a festival honoring Chavez, who died in 1993, and the 85-year-old Huerta, who spoke at the ceremony and remains active in the labor-rights movement.
After being brought back to Chiodo’s Napa studio, the bronzes were displayed at the Ole Health clinic during the summer, then taken to Benicia for that city’s Labor Day event in September.
Although the statues were designed to be transported for possible educational roadshows visiting schools, Holcomb said the Velo building are likely to be their home “for a long, long time.”
The developer added he and Chiodo may work together on smaller bronzes of Huerta and Chavez, which could be exhibited at schools to help educate students about California’s farmworker rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
The Chavez and Huerta bronzes may not be the last to focus on local ethnic communities, according to Holcomb, who said he may sponsor local artworks in the coming years to pay tribute to the Chinese and Italian immigrants who settled in Napa.