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MURALS

Mexican-Americans have rarely been adequately represented in Los Angeles. Most historical accounts of the city fail to include them and other minorities who have contributed to the colorful history of the city. To combat this neglect, Chicanos, along with other minority groups, have depicted their experiences in street murals, most notably in The Great Wall of Los Angeles.

The Chicano Movement of the 1960ís yielded street murals that manifested the views of minorities. Murals helped spread information to both the literate and the illiterate. They became visual historical accounts, proclamations of unity, and stories of injustice. Murals expressed reactions to the social, economic, and political condition of Mexican-Americans; they also served as alternatives to traditional art. Because of their accessibility, murals became popular in poor communities. They promoted pride of cultural identity, which empowered communities (Los Angeles Murals Home Page). Street murals helped Chicanos gain representation.

Los Angeles street murals represent the identity of the city. Various groups portray their stories and ideas through this artistic media. Artists range from professionals to tagging crews. The messages that the murals convey vary as greatly as the artists do. The diversity of these paintings reflects the diversity of the city.

The Great Wall of Los Angeles reflects this diversity through a unique representation of California and Los Angeles histories. With the mural, artistic director Judith Baca seeks to represent the "ethnic peoples, women and minorities who were so invisible in conventional text book accounts" (Cockcroft, i.) It focuses on the experiences and contributions of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles. As a project of the Social and Public Arts Resource Center (SPARC), the mural aims to increase the visibility of works that reflect Americaís diversity (Cockcroft, 1). The mural depicts important events and people in Chicano and Los Angeles histories such as the Zoot Suit Riots, early inhabitants, Mexican settlers, and David Gonzales. This mural highlights the often-forgotten history and diversity of Los Angeles.

See these selected images:

    Gabrielinos: The original inhabitants of the Los Angeles area were the Gabrielino Indians. A Gabrielino woman cradles her baby by the entrance of her home. A Gabrielino man makes a tool as he kneels by her. This mural panel stresses the simple lives that these people lead.
    Immigration: Men, women, and children come from various nations to live in Los Angeles. The flags represent their nations of birth.
    Deportation: Thousands of Mexican-Americans were deported to Mexico after the Stock Market Crash of 1929. A large white manís hand pushes Mexican immigrants into trains that would return them to Mexico. The financial benefits created by immigrant labor are in the white manís pocket. The immigrants look back at the man and the United States with suspicion and sadness. Price tags are attached to the Mexicans, as though they were cattle. A Newspaper reports the deportation.
    Zoot-Suit Riots: A Mexican-American boy crouches on the sidewalk, stripped of his clothing. A policeman towers over the youth: he makes no attempt to stop the sailor, who rips the boy's shirt. Meanwhile other servicemen run out of taxis to join the riot. One of the servicemen steps on the June 7, 1943, edition of the Los Angeles Times, which reports the event favorably for the servicemen.
    Division of the Barrios: Freeways divide the barrios of East Los Angeles. The freeways destroy homes and separate families. Thus parents are sad and youths angered. Startled chickens convey the confusion and pain of the families.

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