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MISSION — It’s a 19-year-old dream coming to reality for Gen Long, former Mission councilwoman. Her overdue “dream” was to see former U.S. Rep. Eligio de la Garza II immortalized in bronze for his 44 years of service to South Texas and as a Mission’s “favorite son.” He is lovingly known as “Kika” by his family, friends and the constituency he served.
“Kika has been a Godsend for agriculture in this area and also throughout the United States and many countries of the world. People do not realize what all he has done, but I have seen a lot of the successes from what he has done,” said Long.
Although born in Mercedes in 1927, he grew up and attended schools in Mission, graduating from Mission High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1945 and served until 1946. He served during the Korean Conflict.
Now 83, de la Garza first served in the Texas House of Representatives in 1952, the year he graduated from law school. He later became the area’s congressman in Washington in 1964 after six consecutive terms in the Texas House. He was the chair of the House Committee on Agriculture from 1981 to 1994, when he became the first Hispanic since 1917 to chair a standing committee in the House. His name is attached to numerous bills and measures opening significant pathways in the advancement of agriculture.
Only five feet six inches in stature, de la Garza’s image will become bigger than life when the eight-foot sculpture is completed and settles into its home and place of honor at Rotary Park in downtown Mission at Business 83 and Conway Avenue.
When de la Garza’s long-time administrative aide Sol Marroquin saw the image that has taken shape at the Upper Valley Art League (UVAL) facility, he said, “I looked up at it and thought that he always seemed bigger than that in real life.”
Marroquin worked with de la Garza for 21 of the total 44 years the former congressman spent in office.
“A long time in coming and very deserving, we have many great men and women that have come out of Mission, and he’s one of them,” Marroquin said. “It is wonderful that the community is thinking of him for the many years of service to the community.”
Fueled by Long’s passion for the project, the sculpture is a collaborative effort with the UVAL membership. Well-known sculptor artist Douglas Clark is overseeing the project and applying his touch along with multiple UVAL artists who are donating their experience and time to the project. Clark was a central figure in the “Working Man” sculpture, which sits on a bench in front of Mission City Hall.
“The members of the Upper Valley Art League feel that it is an honor to do the project of Kika de la Garza, because he has represented Mission and the State of Texas for so many years and has done so much in agriculture—which is so vital to this region,” Maxilou Link, UVAL president, said.
The project is at about 20 percent along in its construction and will cost $15,000 in materials alone. Over $4,000 of free labor has been donated to date. Additional funds will also be needed for landscaping and finishing touches when the final product is placed at the Rotary Park.
The public can support the project by making monetary donations; Long is the fundraising chairperson for the endeavor. Since UVAL is a nonprofit organization, all donations are tax deductible. Donations of any size will be accepted, but four sponsorship categories have been designated: Bronze, $500; Silver, $1,000; Gold, $2,500; and Platinum, $5,000. Acknowledgement of contributors will be given on an engraved dedication plaque at the site.
All checks or money orders should be made payable to the Upper Valley Art League and with a notation that the funds are earmarked for the Kika de la Garza project. Mail the donations to UVAL, 921 E. 12th St., Mission, TX 78572.
For more information, contact Long at 956-432-2248 or the UVAL at 956-583-2787. For more photos, check out Upper Valley Art League on Facebook.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.