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National Historic Landmark designation prompts council action on memorial
The woman whose nickname was given to a park on the east side of Cotulla will be memorialized with a full-size bronze statue within the year.
City councilors voted in favor Thursday, May 12, of commissioning renowned South Texas artist and sculptor Armando Hinojosa to create a statue of Florence “Florita” Maltsberger that will be placed in the public park that bears her name.
Plaza Florita was dedicated to the local community activist and benefactor in the early 1930s, its name changing in the government records a short time later from “Mexican Plaza.” The site is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the US Department of the Interior and will be marked by a plaque in the near future.
Hinojosa approached the city council earlier this year with two proposals for sculptures, one of them being of Maltsberger. The other, over which elected officials have yet to decide, is an armed forces veterans’ memorial that includes a figure of a Gold Star mother being consoled by an angel. Names of all those from La Salle County who have served in the armed forces would be included in bronze plates mounted onto granite blocks, according to a design suggested by the artist two months ago.
Councilors have instead opted to proceed with a statue of Maltsberger that may be completed before mid-2023 and joins a select number of other commissions. Hinojosa was also responsible for a statue of former US President Lyndon Johnson, depicting him in his younger years when he served as a teacher at the Welhausen School, which faces Plaza Florita. The artist also designed the bronze of city founder Joseph Cotulla and an artesian water well, placed at Cotulla Veterans Park downtown; and bronzes of South Texas wildlife now on display at City Hall.
Hinojosa is known in Texas for his sculptures of Vaqueros in front of Laredo International Airport, foraging javelinas at Texas A&M University Kingsville, and the 250-ton bronze and granite Tejano monument in front of the Texas Capitol in downtown Austin. He sold a collection of his oil paintings to the city of Cotulla last year, depicting South Texas scenes and cowboy life.
The new commission has been ordered at a cost of $145,000, of which $45,000 is paid in advance. The remainder will be paid in monthly installments, by request of the artist.
City Administrator Larry Dovalina told councilors that only two percent of the national historic landmarks in Texas represent Latino culture, “and this is now one of those places.”
“The statue will be placed somewhere near the center of the plaza, near the gazebo,” Dovalina told councilors at their recent meeting. “It will not affect our remodeling plans for the site.”
The city will pay for the sculpture with funds generated by its Hotel Occupancy Tax, monies that may only be expended on projects related to tourism, city promotion, and events that will encourage visitors and thereby boost the local economy.
“Hotel tax funds can only be used for certain purposes, and this is one of those things,” Dovalina said. “You approved construction of new bathrooms [at Plaza Florita], and you are going to demolish the ugly ones.
“We are trying to create a historic square here,” the city administrator said.
In his monthly financial report to the city, consultant Jorge Flores told councilors on May 12 that the Hotel Occupancy Tax generated payments totaling $189,000 for the month of April alone. For the first seven months of the fiscal year, he said, Cotulla has received at least $677,000.
Projects undertaken with hotel tax revenues in the past have included beautification of Front Street in the downtown historic district and promotion of annual festivals. Still ongoing is restoration of the former Stockmens Bank, which the city is repurposing as exhibition and office space.
The move to commission Hinojosa’s bronze of Florence Maltsberger was made by Councilor Gilbert Ayala, seconded by Councilor Reynaldo Garcia.