Residents of the Antonio Garrido Moraga square in Vélez-Málaga work up last Friday to find that the bronze statue of Miguel de Cervantes had been painted gold.
The incident has raised questions about the possible return of the 'golden painter'. In April 2015 a young man was arrested and accused of painting street furniture in the city and in Rincón de la Victoria with gold paint. Last January he was sentenced to pay 7,750 euros. In February he told SUR that he was helping out with a meals-on wheels service to pay the fine.
Photos went viral on social networks with people asking whether it was sheer vandalism or art. However, early on Friday morning town hall workers set to work and by midday Cervantes had been restored to his former bronze glory.
The neighbourhood association of San Francisco and San Juan de Vélez-Málaga reported the incident via social networks, with a message in which they say "Without police surveillance anything can happen!"
The president of the neighbourhood group, Fran Delgado, told SUR that they have been asking for "many years" for the installation of video surveillance cameras in the town centre, as well as a reinforcement of police presence. "At first we thought it might have been something done by the town hall itself, but no, it is an act of vandalism", said Delgado, who nevertheless joked that the sculpture "is now more elegant".
Delgado went on to talk about "the neglect and abandonment" of the historic centre of Vélez-Málaga, with streets such as Calle las Tiendas, "where there are no longer any commercial businesses left. The building permits take forever and the town hall is not committed to this area, the old Lope de Vega theatre has not been refurbished and the works promised, such as the Plaza de la Constitución, have not been started", he added.
Councillor for Culture, Cynthia García, condemned the "act of vandalism", adding, "The material or immaterial heritage must be cared for and respected by all of us, we cannot allow this type of act."
Asked about the "scarce" police presence and the possible installation of video surveillance cameras, García said that her department has "on many occasions" requested these devices in places in the historic centre such as La Fortaleza, "where the security gate has been closed to prevent acts of vandalism and gatherings of people to drink". She added, "We are working to install cameras in the historic centre with European funds."