Culture

Old-School Mexican-American Muralists Are Bringing Latino Murals Back To Los Angeles And They Are Wonderful

It’s hard to miss the colorful 70-foot apartment complexes along Broadway between Chinatown and El Pueblo near downtown Los Angeles. But it’s even harder to not notice four new vibrant murals, drawn by four prominent local Mexican-American artists — Judithe Hernández, José Lozano, Miguel Angel Reyes, and Barbara Carrasco. On Sep.12, the murals and the new LA Plaza Village mixed-use complex near the El Pueblo historic district were both unveiled. 

LA Plaza Village is set to usher in a new wave of Latino culture and empowerment in the historic El Pueblo District.

Mexican-American artists have created a new mural corridor in Los Angeles as part of a newly formed LA Plaza celebrating Latino history in LA.
Credit: Javier Rojas / mitú

LA Plaza Village is a 3.7-acre, $160 million project developed by LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes (LA Plaza) that marks a new era in the historic area. The project broke ground back in 2016 and after years of anticipation, it is now open for residents. The two-building complex includes 355 apartments, including 70 affordable housing units, with 43,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and restaurant space. The entire project helped employ more than 3,400 employees, including almost 1,000 local area workers, and 671 apprentices, including 218 local apprentices.

“There has been tremendous growth throughout the rest of Downtown but this area was neglected,” John Echeveste, CEO of LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, said at the opening. “This is going to bring new life to the area. We have a good mix of residents that are living here, we’re going to be shopping locally on Olvera Street and attending programs at the museum. It helps to just revive this entire El Pueblo area.”  

The housing development is just the surface of what is expected to be a cultural hub of Latino history and food with the opening of LA Plaza Cocina, a museum and educational kitchen dedicated to Mexican cuisine. The museum is slated to open next Spring and will usher in a mini-renaissance of Latino culture in the area. 

“LA Plaza Village marks the fulfillment of another major milestone for our organization that began in 2011 with the opening of our museum and will continue with the opening of our Historic Paseo Walkway in 2019 and Cocina in 2020. These projects have helped spark a new cultural and economic revival in the historic heart of downtown,” Lupe de la Cruz III, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes Board Chair, said at the opening.

The heart of the project includes the work of four local muralists who have all painted original pieces of work.

Credit: Javier Rojas / mitú

All four of the muralists worked on the pieces over the last year, each putting their own special touch on each of their works. The murals are located on Broadway between the Hollywood Freeway and Cesar Chavez Avenue. 

“LA Plaza Village will make a lasting and impactful statement to the historic roots and presence of Latinos in Los Angeles through the works of these four talented artists. The artists were selected based on their creative ability to capture the essence of the Latino experience in Los Angeles, and we believe their art will distinguish LA Plaza Village as one of the most captivating and inspiring developments in downtown. Much as El Pueblo pays tribute to our proud history, LA Plaza Village recognizes our bright and promising future,” John Echeveste, CEO, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, said at the press conference.

Judithe Hernández’s La Nueva Reina

Credit: Javier Rojas / mitú

 Judithe Hernández, an acclaimed LA-based muralist who has been an active artist since the 1970s, is behind the tallest mural. Her 70-foot-tall piece titled “La Nueva Reina” is inspired by a mural she drew during the 1981 Los Angeles bicentennial celebration. Coincidentally, Herández’s new mural is on the site of her previous mural that she painted back in 1981. 

“As a powerful cultural and historical image, the city’s patroness has for too long been absent from the city’s heart and visual experience. Therefore, it seemed fitting to honor her again. My challenge was to reinterpret La Reina as the embodiment of an ancient cultural past reaching out to embrace the unfolding future in the 21st century,” Hernandez told LA Plaza. 

Jose Lozano’s Aliso Dreams

Credit: Abelardo de la Pena Jr (LA Plaza)

On the opposite corner of the street is Jose Lozano’s “Aliso Dreams” which stands at five stories tall. Lozano is a children’s book illustrator and has done various art projects in the LA area. The mural pays homage to the Aliso trees that once stood behind Olvera Street and the community that it brought together. 

Miguel Angel Reyes’s Family Tree

Credit: Javier Rojas / mitú

At the edge of Broadway is “Family Tree” by Miguel Angel Reyes which rests at the development’s Broadway parking garage entrance. This work pays tribute to Miguel’s family and other countless immigrant families who have all made sacrifices coming to the U.S. 

“I hope this mural inspires everyone to pursue an education and to put in the hours to reach their goals. An Education can be a difficult road which does not guarantee results,” Reyes told LA Plaza. ” I hope that those who take the academic road are able to stay with it and not give up your dream. Make your parents, your community and yourself proud and create a role model for future generations.”

Barbara Carrasco’s Movimiento

Credit: Javier Rojas / mitú

Barbara Carrasco’s “Movimiento” is located at the future headquarters of The Cesar Chavez Foundation. The vibrant mural represents a part of Carrasco’s life in which she played a role working hand in hand with Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the United Farm Workers. She would create mural banners and other pieces of art to help with public events. The mural includes a portrait of  Cesar Chavez and other members of the Chicano Movement during the 1960s. 

READ: This New Border Wall Mural Features QR Codes That You Can Scan To Hear Emotional Stories Of Deported Migrants

FOMO Alert: Ugly Primo’s Party In Los Angeles Showcasing His Art Gave Everyone A Chance To Celebrate Him

Entertainment

FOMO Alert: Ugly Primo’s Party In Los Angeles Showcasing His Art Gave Everyone A Chance To Celebrate Him

uglyprimo / Instagram

Ugly Primo has been capturing Latino pop culture moments in his vivid illustrations since early 2018, illustrating the “Suavamente” Elvis Crespo into fabric softener and Cardi B as a “Farti B cushion.” While we have no idea what Ugly Primo looks like, since he hides behind an actual cholo puppet, we know that, for the first time ever, Ugly Primo showcased his work.

Ugly Primo invited everyone to the Primos Playhouse to, well, party. Ugly Primo’s Instagram bio has long advertised himself as a “retired quinceañera DJ,” and people finally got to hear him spin. After DJ sets by J Valentino, 2DEEP, Mija Doris, and Brü, the puppet, or the man behind the puppet, took to the stage. Best of all: it was free.

Of course, Ugly Primo’s version of a gallery was called a Playhouse, so you know it was fun.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Twitter

Held in downtown Los Angeles, a free DJ event with dope art is my kind of night. Our favorite primo tweeted that, “There will be exclusive merch, art installations, music by some friends, and drinks for my 21+ borrachos. Hope to see you there!”

Ugly Primo is kind of *excellent* at creating unique merch.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Twitter

It seems like the world’s coolest puppet is pretty close with San Benito, and worked with the trapetero to create on-brand chanclas for Bad Bunny fans. They’re reportedly too holy to be weaponized for the chanclazo. You may have seen Ugly Primo’s art on up-and-coming artist Cuco Puffs’s most recent album cover, too. It’s weird how Ugly Primo is everywhere, but nobody has seen him.

Ugly Primo might just be our favorite primo after the artwork he’s gifted us this last year alone.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Instagram

During the height of Nio Garcia, Ozuna, Darrel, Nicky Jam, Casper Magico and Bad Bunny’s “Te Bote” classic, Ugly Primo blessed America with an auspicious illustration. In an effort to motivate his fans to get out and vote, he released an image of a very orange Donald Trump at a podium stickered with “Yo voté,” followed by a “Te bote” stamp of disapproval. His blessing on the midterms did give us Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We need more illustrations, Primo.

If only a Mercado de mucho, mucho amor existed.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Instagram

Internationally-acclaimed astrologer Walter Mercado may have passed earlier this week, but he’s been long honored by Ugly Primo. For Mercado’s haters, they love the idea that his predictions and, “sobre todo, mucho, mucho amor” was up for sale. For everyone else, we loved what Mercado was selling – his genderless fashion sense and exuberant love for his fans.

When Cumbia legend Celso Piña passed, he was immortalized in vibrant colors as well.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Instagram

The cumbia artist, known as El Rebelde del acordeón, passed on August 21 at just 66 years old from a heart attack. The Mexican accordionist pioneered a fusion of tropical salsa sounds with cumbia and regional mexicano.

When Cardi B was freely expressing her flatulence on the ‘gram, Ugly Primo immortalized the pop culture moment.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Instagram

“Farti B is steaming hot. Swipe for some 💨💨💨,” Ugly Primo captioned his June edition to his works, alongside a hilarious anthology of Cardi B’s most recent fart sprees. “Damn, I farted but that was a very low fart, so y’all can’t hear it. It’s one of those farts that like, they don’t really stink, it’s just air,” Cardi told her Instagram fans back in June 2019. “I gotta fart so bad. I’m about to air it out. I farted, I farted, I farted, I farted,” Cardi said. “Oh it STANK. You smell it, Ashley? It’s gonna hit you though. You smell it?” she asked, cackling.

Ugly Primo has helped us envision a world made for Latinos, here in America.

@uglyprimo / Instagram

Ugly Primo’s artistry is embedded in Latinizing mainstream items, like slapping “Tigers of the North” on a box of frosted flakes, with a guitar playing tiger and more. We get to imagine what a Trader Jose’s might look like, and even though Los Angeles is plentiful with Hispanic grocer’s, Ugly Primo uses the brand recall of a national chain to make that experience feel like the true cornerstone of American identity that it is. We belong here. We’re not going anywhere.

LA, if you’re looking for a party, it’s at the Primo Playhouse.

@uglyprimo / Instagram

Let’s show Ugly Primo all our support, hope we meet Ugly Primo in the felt (or flesh, let’s be real) and see what “exclusive merch” he’s drawn up for us.

READ: Ugly Primo Is One Latino Artist Everyone Who Loves Pop Culture Should Know About

This Woman Saw Her Former Yale Classmate’s Story Of Becoming Homeless On The News, Then She Swept Into Help

Entertainment

This Woman Saw Her Former Yale Classmate’s Story Of Becoming Homeless On The News, Then She Swept Into Help

@KTLAMorningNews / Twitter

When CNN first reported about Shawn Pleasants, a former Yale graduate with an economics degree and previous experiencing working on Wall Street and in Hollywood, it generated mass sympathy. The Black businessman, who was a high school valedictorian and built a successful career for himself, shocked readers at the news of his decline. Pleasants, who had suffered a series of misfortunes, found himself out on the streets, addicted to methamphetamine and living in a tend in Los Angeles’s Koreatown for the past ten years. 

CNN’s coverage of California’s homeless crisis put a spotlight on Pleasants, a 52-year-old man who had been suffering for years. 

His life, it seems, has turned around thanks to the generosity of a former Yale classmate who saw his story.

Kim Hersmanis a Black attorney who studied at Yale around the same time that Pleasants did, came across the CNN profile and knew she had to help.”I started reading it — and just tears,” Hershman told CNN in a piece about Pleasants that was published today. In her interview with the news organization, Hershman admitted that she had not known Pleasants very well during their time at the Ivy League university. “When we were at Yale in the ’80s, there were very few Black students there,” Hershman told CNN. “Things are very different now. But I know that for whatever he achieved, something changed, and he didn’t have the support that, maybe, I had.”

When Hershman, who lives just miles from Pleasants’ encampment in Koreatown, first read his story she knew she wanted to help.

Hershman reached out to her network of Yale alumni on a Facebook page for former Black Yale students and asked for their advice and support so that she could help Pleasants.   According to CNN, the day after CNN featured their story about Pleasants, Hershman headed to Koreatown to find him with two other Yale alumni and her partner. “I was a little nervous because I was, like, ‘Where am I going? I’m a 5-foot-1 female,'” she told CNN. After asking around, Hershman was told by a homeless person that she could find him “around the corner.  

Wearing a Yale had, Hershman found Pleasants and took a seat beside him on a sidewalk and took his hand.

Pleasants told CNN that he knew who he was as soon as he saw her. “I had seen her, maybe, seven or eight times at school,” he told the news site. After speaking for some time, Hershman asked Pleasants how she could help. “My big thing was: ‘What do you want? And based on what you want, I’m going to do whatever I can to help you,'” she told CNN.

Pleasants told Hershman that his biggest desire was “to make a difference.” 

“I’m in this situation, and there has to be a reason for it all, and I want to help others,” Pleasants told CNN. That day, the two talked about Pleasants’ vision for a homeless resource center. There he hoped that he could help the homeless by offering them access to showers, mailboxes, and charging phones. Hershman told him that she wouldn’t make him processes but would do all she could to help him to get back onto his feet, as long as he went into a drug rehabilitation program. 

 Despite having rejected previous offers from family members in the past, Pleasants agreed under the condition that he could bring his husband  

“When she wants to do something, she does it, by golly. She’s an angel,” Pleasants told CNN. 

Hershman ultimately moved Pleasants into a guest house located on what CNN described as a “posh LA estate.” There, Pleasants has access to pools, basketball and his own kitchen that Hershman stocked with food. Since his move, Pleasants has been checked into a rehab facility in Los Angeles and his husband is scheduled to under go heart surgery.

 Hershman has paid $10,000 for Pleasants rehab stay and has said that she is ready to pay for more if he needs it. She has also helped set Pleastants up with a more permanent housing situation that will use a federally subsidized Section 8 voucher. 

“We’re people with a myriad of different circumstances. There are people from all cultures, countries, age groups and professions,” Pleasants told CNN of the homeless people he knows. “Not everyone can pay $2,000 a month for a studio,” he said. People who used to help homeless residents, he said, ended up sitting beside “us” on the streets. Pleasants also wants to call attention to the lack of facilities just to “clean your clothes.”  Here’s hoping Pleasants and his partner are able to recover fully and develop a new life together. There’s no doubt our world could use more generous people like Hershman.   

H/T: CNN