A controversial sculpture of a pre-Columbian deity is due to be unveiled in a San Jose, California, park this month after years of debate and the expenditure of an estimated $500,000 in public funds. At the same time, a vocal opponent of the statue, which features Aztec deity Quetzalcoatl, said his outspoken stand cost him reappointment to a prominent city panel.

The Quetzalcoatl statue will rise in a park dedicated to the memory of Cesar Chavez, late founder of the United Farm Worker's union. The park itself stands opposite a Roman Catholic cathedral. The 25-foot-high statue was proposed in 1991 by Blanca Alvarado, then a city council member and now vice mayor, who said the sculpture would serve as a tribute to the city's Mexican past—and spiritual heritage.

"There has been for me a spiritual renaissance in researching the attributes of Quetzalcoatl," Alvarado told the city's Urban Review Design Board in 1992. "If we use this as a tool, which is another benefit for the city, … it is a way of teaching our children."

At the dedication ceremony of the statue, which earned sculptor Robert Graham a reported $400,000 commission, it is expected that school children, under a program sponsored by Alvarado, will bring drawings of Aztec deities and symbols to the statue as a tribute. They are expected to affix the drawings to the sculpture's base, for which the city has allocated an additional $100,000.

No photographs of the sculpture have been released—an unusual circumstance for a public art commission. Besides standing 25 feet above its base, the statue is said to embody a coiled serpent from whose tail a "golden ball" will be suspended to diffuse sunlight into the interior and base of the work.

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