While long-time PEMEX office worker Helvia Martínez Verdayes never mentioned it until she retired, anyone who has spent any time in Mexico City (or Acapulco, or Villa Álvarez, Colima, or Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo, or a few other places around the Republic) knows her: she is one of the iconic women of Mexico.
In 1942, even as President Manuel Ávila Camacho was distracted with a much broader war (against Germany, Japan, Italy, et. al.), than the one being fought against gangsters now, he took a keen interest in Mexico’s public image, working with then-regent (the appointed mayor of Mexico City, which didn’t elect its government until 1997) Javier Rojo Gómez on a plan to improve the capital’s aesthetic appeal, adding fountains and statuary to public corridors.
Architect Vicente Mendiola and sculptor Juan Olaguíbel presented a plan for a fountain to stand on Paseo de la Reforma at the entrance to Parque Chapultepc allegorically meant to symbolize the captial’s northward growth.
Then 16 years old, Helvia Martinez — or rather Helvia’s face and figure — gained instant popularity as “Diana Cazadora”… and instant notoriety from an unexpected source. Ávila Camacho wife, Soledad Orozco did not, like her predecessor as First Lady, the energetic Amalia Solórzano, automatically lend support her husband’s proposals. Orozco had her own eccentric interest, serving as chair of the “Legion of Decency”… which went around looking for things to complain about: like statues of naked girls shooting arrows.
Helvia’s statue was fitted with a decent skirt, and moved to a innocuous neighborhood park for several years, while Helvia herself went to work as a secretary at PEMEX. The ridiculous skirt was eventually removed (or, more properly, just allowed to deteriorate and not replaced once Ávila Camacho left office), and Diana Cazador was given a more prominent location in the Zona Rosa — where nekked teenage girls weren’t quite so shocking to passers-by. While copies of the popular iconic image of Mexico City stand in other communities (like Acapulco), the original now stands where she belongs, on Reforma at the ends of Río Missisipi y Sevilla.
Helvia, in bronze and in the flesh, has aged well.
Photos and source material: De10.mx (El Universal)