The first time Miami Sgt. Eduardo Perez met Diego was at Art Basel two years ago.
Perez loved Diego, who was painted with the Day of the Dead motif, to honor fallen police officers of Hispanic descent.
The self-proclaimed mounted patrol fanatic thought of Diego again as he planned the Miami Police Mounted Patrol History Exhibit, which chronicles the unit’s history from its inception in 1937.
Perez asked Korman if he could borrow Diego. He loaded him up on a horse trailer and hauled him to the Futurama Art Gallery in Little Havana for the exhibit, which runs through Friday. Friday evening, a celebration will include antique police cars, a performance by the In Blue Police band and an appearance by a hoofed police officer (horses, like police dogs, are considered officers) wearing red and blue lights. Diego will be by the front door.
“It’s important that we preserve our history,” said Perez. “We can learn a lot from our past.”
While many South Florida departments have done away with mounted police officers, Miami’s unit, which has 11 horses, is a big part of community policing, Perez said.
Patty Vargas, executive director for Viernes Culturales Festival, which is hosting the Friday event, said the mounted patrol is a big part of Little Havana.
“We are very honored to have this exhibit,” she said. “The community has really embraced it.”
The colorful Diego, who has the words serve and protect written in Spanish, sits next to Perez’s collection of mounted patrol memorabilia.
Perez, who was in Miami’s mounted patrol unit for five years before he became a sergeant, said he began collecting memorabilia when he realized “not a lot existed.” Through online auctions he amassed a sizable collection of the unit’s history.
The weirdest artifact: His horse Panchito’s baby tooth.
If you go
What: Closing night celebration of the 2016 Miami Police Mounted Patrol history exhibit
When: 7 to 10:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Futurama Art Gallery, 1637 SW Eighth St., Miami
Cost: Free and open to the public