Things That Matter

Historic Chicano Murals Were Whitewashed All Over Los Angeles But A New Movement Is Bringing Them Back

Ernesto de la Loza can remember a time when he could walk down the streets of Boyle Heights and be greeted by the sight of vibrant murals. Sometimes, he’d even run into some of his own work on neighborhood walls. 

“Things were different 40 years ago. I saw our community come together and paint our stories on walls,” said De la Loza, 71, who was a renowned muralist during the Chicano Pride movement in East LA in the ’60s and ’70s. “Now, all I see are new coffee shops and yoga studios. It’s not the same.”

De la Loza was behind some of the most iconic murals in the city that included work that highlighted environmental awareness and the fight for equal rights. He recalls the first mural he painted was a Mayan motif at El Sereno Park back in 1968 as a 19-year-old. 

“These murals represented our struggles and our stories that weren’t being taught in history books,” De la Loza says. “That’s why I started painting, to express myself and for the past 50 years I’ve stood true to that.”

De La Loza was part of the “Golden Age of Chicano Muralism” in LA during the ’60s and ’70s. Today, the work from that era is quickly disappearing. 

Credit: Javier Rojas / mitú

He takes me on a tour outside of his work office in Echo Park, a rapidly changing neighborhood in Los Angeles that was once predominantly Latino. He nods to the new art studio near his office opening soon and sighs. De la Loza says that there was once a colorful mural of the Lady of Guadalupe right next to his office but as we make a turn around the block to see it, we find white paint and graffiti covering any resemblance to the mural. 

“This neighborhood had a mural on every corner and you can hold me to that,” de la Loza says with pride in his voice. “It was beautiful.”

De la Loza is right. The streets of LA did indeed have a mural on every corner, or so it sure seemed like that back then. Murals popped up everywhere in Los Angeles in the 1970s as artists took to walls to express views on political and social issues, including student uprisings and civil rights struggles. 

According to Isabel Rojas-Williams, 69, a mural expert and historian, at the height of the mural movement in LA there was an estimated 2,500 murals up on city walls. Then, they started disappearing. 

Due to an increase in city-wide graffiti, weather damage and neighborhood complaints, many of these historic murals began to be whitewashed across Los Angeles

Credit: Javier Rojas / mitú

“Los Angeles was once the mural capital of the world. All over the Eastside of LA there were beautiful pieces of art that celebrated and empowered Chicano culture,” said Rojas-Williams. “There were well over 2,500 murals over the city from Boyle Height to the San Fernando Valley.”

She says that the Estrada Courts housing project in Boyle Heights was the birthplace of the Chicano mural movement. Over 90 murals once stood at low-income housing projects where some of the most well-known muralists like De la Loza and David Botello painted work there. Today, there are roughly only 50 murals there. That is due to graffiti and lack of financial funding to restore the murals. 

“There was tagging all over them and that was painful to see because it was our own people behind it,” De La Loza as he looks up to the sky. “We killed the mural movement and that pains me.”

The erasure of murals in LA can be traced back to the ’90s when murals began to disappear due to tagging, damage due to weather and overall lack of maintenance. In return, the damaged murals became “eyesores” to some in the community and complaints to the city followed. Gentrification would also begin to hit Northeast LA during this period which led to a change in demographics in these neighborhoods. 

“They didn’t understand the importance of these murals and what they meant to our people,” said Rojas-Williams. “That was the beginning of the end of the mural movement and then came the moratorium.”

In 2002, the city of Los Angeles essentially banned the painting of murals and enacted a moratorium on murals on private property and businesses. That period is known as the “dark age of muralism in LA”. 

Credit: Javier Rojas / mitú

Los Angeles put a mural ban in place due to advertisers suing the city on 1st Amendment grounds. They argued that while their ads were banned from being placed on city walls, muralists could still create giant pieces of work. In return, city officials opted to prohibit all new murals. An individual who wanted to put up a new mural could be fined or even put in jail due to the ban. 

The moratorium lasted 11 years until it was finally lifted in 2013. A new mural ordinance would also be enacted that protected artists work if ever damaged or attempted to be painted over. The rules permitted new murals in business and industrial zones as long as artists registered their projects with the city and paid a $60 application fee. But for many, the damage was already done.

During those 11 years, hundreds of pieces of art were lost due to the whitewashing of murals from the city. There was anger from the art community and historians like Rojas-Williams, who worked on lifting the ban, says the city painted over iconic murals that can never be reclaimed. 

“It felt like the erasure of our culture and the city did this over a decade span losing hundreds of murals in return,” she says. 

For De La Loza, when the moratorium ended it coincided with another wave of change that came to LA around 2013. Highland Park and Echo Park, both Latino enclaves for decades, saw more gentrification hit and a wave of new owners come to the community. By then, murals in those neighborhoods were long gone. 

“I look around this neighborhood and it feels like we were never here,” De La Loza says as we head back to his office. “We lost more than just a piece of art, we lost our history, we lost years of hard work and more importantly we lost our presence in this city.”

Today, Los Angeles is starting to see some of that creative boom again as new murals have popped up all over the city. Yet, there is still much work to be done. 

Credit: Javier Rojas/ mitú

Artists in LA today have more creative freedom than ever when it comes to putting up new murals. But things aren’t as easy as just simply picking a wall and painting on it. With the addition of fees and permits and an agreement that a mural must remain up for at least two years, the new ordinance had unintended consequences. According to Rojas-Williams, many Latino muralists that she speaks to can’t afford these fees or have the time to acquire permits. De La Loza agrees.

“The ordinance helped but in reality it helped the more affluent and outsider community that was coming into the city,” he says. “It’s obvious when you look around the neighborhood whose art is up. It’s nice art but it’s not ours.”

We return to his office and as we say our goodbyes, he shows me one last thing. It’s a book about murals with his artwork on the front cover. He tells me his niece in college was required to read it as part of her college art history class.

“She told me when she saw the book cover she immediately knew it was my work,” De La Loza says as he wipes a tear. “Knowing that a new generation is getting to know about that history and that period gives me hope that one day it’ll be back. 

READ: Mexican-American Artists Add Their Touch To New Mural Corridor At LA’s New LA Plaza Village

Google Launches Faces Of Frida So You Can Pass The Time Learning About The Artist’s Life

Culture

Google Launches Faces Of Frida So You Can Pass The Time Learning About The Artist’s Life

Google

Few artists have reached the level of fame as Frida Kahlo. The Mexican painter is more than an artist. Kahlo is a point of cultural pride that transcends nationality within the Latino community and unites Latino art lovers in their le of Latin American art. Now, Google, in the time of self-isolation, is giving everyone a chance to learn about the iconic painter.

Google wants to give everyone a chance to learn about Frida Kahlo with its online “Faces of Frida” exhibit.

Credit: Google

Anyone who visits the “Face of Frida” exhibit can browse through the artist’s incredible paintings. Kahlo is one of the most influential artists the world has ever known. Her fame and people’s admiration continue to this day with tributes still appearing around the world for the Mexican artist.

Viewers can decide which museum’s Frida Kahlo collection they want to explore.

Credit: Google

The exhibit is made possible by 32 museums from around the world collaborating to show Frida Kahlo’s impressive and iconic works of art. Museums across four continents shared Kahlo piece from their exhibits with Google to create an exhibit showing more than 800 paintings. Some of the museums include Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico, Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the United States, Nagoya City Art Museum in Japan, Fundación MAPFRE in Spain, and Buenos Aires Graffiti in Argentina.

The interactive exhibit is perfect for all Frida Kahlo and art lovers alike. While 3.4 billion people in the world are on lockdown orders, the incredible virtual exhibit of Kahlo’s work gives people a chance to see works of art they haven’t been able to visit yet.

The exhibit is easy to navigate and some of Kahlo’s works have been collected into their own themed galleries.

Credit: Google

Kahlo is most famous for using her own life as the inspiration for her works of art. The artist often played with the themes of pain and death due to her own near-death experiences. Her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera influenced Kahlo’s work depending on where they were in their relationship. The couple was notorious for taking extra-marital lovers throughout their marriage.

“Faces of Frida” also offers art fans a chance to learn about Kahlo through editorial features.

Credit: Google

Kahlo was one of the most revolutionary women in the world. She moved through space unimpeded by society’s views on her gender and place in society. She was politically engaged and held onto a list of values that many still argue over today. Namely, there have been discussions and think pieces about the sudden commercialized usage of Kahlo’s image and what she might have to say about it. As someone who was opposed to capitalism, it seems safe to say she might not have appreciated herself being used for capitalistic gains.

You can visit “Faces of Frida” by clicking here.

READ: This LA Play Explores The Mystery Surrounding Frida Kahlo’s Death, Her Love Affairs, And Her Passion For Art

American Cities And States Announce Mass Closures As They Brace For The Growing COVID-19 Outbreak

Things That Matter

American Cities And States Announce Mass Closures As They Brace For The Growing COVID-19 Outbreak

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Mayor Eric Garcetti / Facebook

A number of states and cities across the U.S. are taking drastic measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. Bars, restaurants, movie theaters, concert venues, gyms, and schools are all shutting down to limit the spread of the virus that has infected more than 179,000 people globally. The death toll for COVID-19 in the U.S. continues to climb as more cases are discovered. Major cities are taking the virus seriously and taking extra steps to keep their residents safe and healthy.

COVID-19 has been detected in 49 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.

There are currently more than 3,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. with more than 70 deaths reported. Most of the deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities in Washington state among elderly people. California, New York, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Virginia have also reported deaths from the novel coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of President Trump’s COVID-19 response task force, doesn’t doubt that we are still waiting for the peak of infections and deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19.

“Well, it’s certainly going to get worse before it gets better and the kinds of mitigation strategies, containment, and mitigations that you’re talking about, is to do that kind of physical separation of people, which is one of the very effective ways you really mitigate the spread of the virus,” Dr. Fauci, an official with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said on ABC. ” If you look at the pattern of viruses, particularly these kinds of viruses, and even look at what’s gone on in China and in Italy and in South Korea, you go along like this the way we were then you have this big spike that goes way up. Then after a while, after much disease and suffering and death, it comes back down again.”

Dr. Fauci added: “The purpose of the mitigation is to get that peak and to blunt it so that it’s a bit of a hill as opposed to a mountain. We’re at a critical point now, more in some regions of the country than in others, the kinds of things that are going on will hopefully make that blunting of that peak so that we can save a lot of lives and save a lot of illness.”

Major cities across the U.S. are shutting down businesses and telling residents to self-isolate to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Update on COVID-19 Response from Mayor Eric Garcetti

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, I’m taking executive action to temporarily close bars, nightclubs, restaurants (except takeout/delivery), entertainment venues, and other establishments in the city of Los Angeles. These orders go into effect at midnight tonight and will stay in place until March 31 unless extended. There is no food shortage and grocery stores will remain open. We’re taking these steps to help protect Angelenos, limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, and avoid putting a dangerous strain on our health care system. This will be a tough time, but it is not forever. Angelenos have always risen to meet difficult moments, and we will get through this together.———————————————————Para ayudar a prevenir la propagación de COVID-19, estoy tomando medidas ejecutivas para cerrar temporalmente los bares, discotecas, restaurantes (excepto comida para llevar / a domicilio), lugares de entretenimiento y otros establecimientos en la ciudad de Los Ángeles. Estas órdenes entrarán en vigor a la medianoche de esta noche y permanecerán vigentes hasta el 31 de marzo al menos que se extiendan. No hay escasez de alimentos y los supermercados permanecerán abiertas. Estamos tomando estos pasos para ayudar a proteger a los Angelinos, limitar la propagación del nuevo coronavirus y evitar una tensión peligrosa en nuestro sistema de atención médica.Este será un momento difícil, pero no es para siempre. Los Angelinos siempre se han levantado para enfrentar momentos difíciles, y lo superaremos juntos.

Posted by Mayor Eric Garcetti on Sunday, March 15, 2020

West Virginia, Washington D.C., Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Michigan, Florida, Washington state, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Arizona, North Carolina, Minnesota, Illinois, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Diego have all shut down schools.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced on Sunday night that entertainment venues, gyms, fitness studios, bars, movie theaters, and nightclubs would be closed until March 31. Bars and restaurants can only serve take-out orders in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf expanded measures to the rest of the state to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Tom Wolf called on the state to close all nonessential government offices and putting a stop to all nonessential business. Health experts are calling for Americans to do a better job od self-isolating and hunkering down to prevent COVID-19 from spreading further.

“This isn’t a decision that I take lightly at all,” Gov. Wolf told the press during a briefing. “It’s one that I’m making because medical experts believe it is the only way we can prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed by patients.”

Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York joined together to pass similar lockdown provisions to tackle COVID-19 together.

‘”Our primary goal is to slow the spread of #Coronavirus so that the wave doesn’t crash our healthcare system,” Gov. Cuomo tweeted. “Social distancing is the best way to do that. I have called on the federal gov’t to implement nationwide protocols, but in their absence we are taking this on ourselves.”

On Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered all hospitals to cancel elective surgeries, closed senior city centers, and postponed an election in Queens. Visitors are also no longer to go to Rikers Island.

Health experts are urging all Americans to take the necessary steps to prevent spreading COVID-19.

Social distancing and self-isolation are important tools Americans can utilize to make sure the COVID-19 outbreak is curbed. It is going to be a very tough time for millions of Americans who are hunkering down and waiting not the next few weeks as the global community tries to get this virus under control. Everyone has a part to play. Now’s the time.

READ: Navarro College Cheerleaders Of ‘Cheer’ Face Dayton Competition Cancellation Over Coronavirus