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

Lisa Frank And Hotels.com Created An Apartment That Looks Like The Inside Of Your 3rd Grade Backpack

Culture

Lisa Frank And Hotels.com Created An Apartment That Looks Like The Inside Of Your 3rd Grade Backpack

LisaFrank / Instagram

Calling all ’90s kids. Was there ever a better feeling in the world than getting a new shimmery, colorful Lisa Frank binder? We all know that one person who had the whole kit; pencils, erasers, notebooks, stickers. Maybe that person was you or maybe they were someone you were always just a little jealous of, whether you admit it or not. It was a rainbow-colored explosion in every elementary and middle school in the ’90s. Yet, Lisa Frank stationery wants to make the experience immersive. You now have a chance to stay in an apartment decorated in the signature rainbow-colored and slightly psychedelic style of the ’90s brand.

The Lisa Frank apartment, a collaboration between Lisa Frank and Hotels.com, screams nostalgia.

Credit: Hotels.com

Lisa Frank teamed up with Hotels.com to bring your ’90s backpack to life. Hospitality company Barsala, which specializes in delivering the best value for price to their customers. A lucky few fans will be transported to the wonderful world of fluffy rainbows, unicorns, golden retrievers, and technicolor dolphins. The Lisa Frank-themed penthouse is in the Los Angeles Fashion District in downtown. But if you want to stay there, you better hurry. The room is only available for a couple of weeks this month only.

“We wanted to design a room that celebrates all things ’90s, and nothing screams childhood nostalgia more than these iconic designs,” Adam Jay, president of Hotels.com told Curbed LA.

The bed has Lisa Frank sheets and duvet and there are pillows with the trademark colorful kitties and puppies of the brand.

Credit: LisaFrank / Instagram

The bedroom features a hot-pink four-poster bed with a light-up canopy outfitted with Lisa Frank’s signature chromatic bedding and rainbow-hued curtains. There’s a wall-sized mural featuring some of Lisa Frank’s most iconic designs like the rainbows coming out of fluffy clouds, the bear dressed like an Elton John-styled magician, and all of the animals and characters we remember.

The bathroom is an underwater technicolor oasis with all of the Lisa Frank nautical designs we all recognize.

Credit: LisaFrank / Instagram

The bathroom walls are decorated with Lisa Frank’s underwater scenes that graced out school folders for years. Heart-shaped bubbles, rainbow colored tropical fish, and the famous pink and blue dolphins cover the bathroom walls. It is everything you ever wanted your parents to do for your bedroom and bathroom growing up.

Of course, Lisa Frank’s chromatic animal print collection is on full display in the kitchen. 

Credit: LisaFrank / Instagram

You’ll find a true rainbow color spectrum in this kitchen from bright pink to pale blue and all the colors in between. Lisa Frank’s iconic animal prints come to life on the cupboards. Yellow zebra print, a red leopard print that fades to orange. The best part? The kitchen comes fully stocked with the most iconic vibrant-colored candy from your childhood —like Gushers, Pop-Tarts, Pixy Stix, and Planters Cheez Balls.

Get in touch with your inner pop artist with all the stationery and Lisa Frank goodies you can take home.

Credit: Hotels.com

If all the rainbows and colors are making you inspired, next to the lounge area, there’s an office space complete with all the cutesy rainbow Lisa Frank stationery you could ever want. The desk comes supplied with pencils, post-its, notepads and stickers. If ever we wanted to smuggle something out of a hotel room, this is it. 

Guests even get limited edition robes, slippers, and sleep-masks.

Credit: Hotels.com

With your booking, you get to take all of the goodies you like. The candy, the stationery, the Lisa Frank-embroidered robes, and slippers, all yours for the rate of $199 a night.

Yes, Lisa Frank is a real person, but the art was a collaborative effort.

Credit: LisaFrank / Instagram

The Lisa Frank brand first rose to prominence in the 1980s and ’90s as purveyors of hyper-bright, animal-centric school supplies, including Trapper Keepers, pencil bags, backpacks, stickers, and stationery. Lisa Frank is a real person and started the company while she was still in college. However, many artists collaborated to design the illustrations. 

“The artwork was a collaborative effort, but it all began with me putting it on paper as a marker rendering,” Rondi Kutz, who was Lisa Frank Inc.’s Senior Designer and Product Development Leader told HelloGiggles. “The concepts came from Lisa, James (her husband), or me, so I can say that some of the characters were my idea and original design. But by the time it went on to an illustrator to redraw it, adding detail, then to a computer artist who rendered it on the computer (which entailed hundreds of hours of work), it had many artists’ stamps on it.” Kutz went on to work at the company until 2002.

Other notable themed properties available to rent (not on Hotels.com) include Bella Swan’s house from “Twilight,” a “Taco Bell inn” pop-up and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Stays at the Lisa Frank Apartment are available only from October 11 through 27. The cost per night is $199 and the room can only be booked through Hotels.com.

READ: This Mexican Hotel Will Give You Unlimited Tequila And Let You Sleep Inside A Tequila Barrel

A New Documentary Exposes The Massacre In Porvenir, Texas That Left 15 Mexican-Americans Dead

Entertainment

A New Documentary Exposes The Massacre In Porvenir, Texas That Left 15 Mexican-Americans Dead

porvenirmovie / Instagram

Porvenir is a Spanish word. If you break it down, por venir literally means to come, and the translation is the future. It’s also the name of what used to be a tiny town in Texas located right next to the Rio Grande on the border. The village of Porvenir in Texas, which is a town no more, had roots that reflect the brutal and deadly colonization that this country was built on. 

“Porvenir, Texas” is a new documentary on PBS that brings to light the massacre that happened on the border more than 100 years ago. 

Credit: porvenirmovie / Instagram

As the tense immigration crisis continues in this country today, the documentary “Porvenir, Texas” shows how this struggle has been part of our history since the inception of the United States of America. 

The story of the massacre cannot be told before discussing the war between the U.S. and Mexico. While the U.S. continued to expand in the southwest through its war with Mexico, the battle to live and remain in the country affected the most vulnerable people who weren’t part of the war at all. They were Mexicans who lived in Texas and along the border before it was ever part of the United States. However, after Mexico lost Texas to the United States, those living in Texas, became Americans overnight. That didn’t please the incoming residents — white people looking to make the country their home. 

The documentary exposes the brutal killing of 15 Mexican men — some who were American as well — which the U.S. tried to hide from history. 

Credit: porvenirmovie / Instagram

With the expansion of the U.S. throughout its new state of Texas, white ranchers staked their claim in areas that were owned by Mexican-Americans. Like gentrification today, Texas was also gentrified during the Wild West, which meant Mexicans, who were now Americans, were displaced because of higher taxes. 

With the revolution still going on in the Mexican border and new white ranchers taking over land, racial tensions were high. White people were told that all Mexicans were “bandits” and Mexican-Americans were in fear for their lives thinking they could be killed based on the color of their skin.

White people were killing Mexican-Americans outright with no consequences, and the film shows graphic images of that. 

Credit: porvenirmovie / Instagram

Here’s a summary of that fateful violent night as reported by NBC News: “In the early morning hours of Jan. 28, 1918, a group of ranchers, Texas Rangers, and U.S. Army cavalry soldiers entered the village and rousted the residents from their beds. They led away 15 unarmed men and boys of Mexican descent to a nearby bluff, where they shot and killed them. These victims ranged in age from 16 to 72, and some were American citizens. The town’s women and children fled across the border to Mexico for safety. The next day, the perpetrators returned and burned the village to the ground. Porvenir ceased to exist.”

We have no idea how many other Mexican-Americans were killed with such brutality during this period because there’s no record of it. The only reason the story of Porvenir can be told today is because of two men that documented what happened. 

Credit: porvenirmovie / Instagram

Harry Warren was a white teacher that worked with some of the community in Porvenir and wrote about what happened that night. He also was a witness to the bodies.  José Tomás (“J.T.”) Canales, who was a state legislator at the time, launched an investigation against the Rangers, and his depositions and testimony have been preserved as well. 

“There were many cases like Porvenir, where the initial response from the state was to try to fabricate what really took place,” Monica Muñoz Martinez, an assistant professor at Brown University and the founding member of the public history project Refusing To Forget, told NBC News. “It was not unusual for the state to try to justify such acts, by criminalizing the victims. Residents of Porvenir were described at times as squatters or bandits. None of this is true.”

Christina Fernandez Shapter produced the film and spoke about the importance of making sure these stories are never forgotten. 

Credit: jefegreenheart / Instagram

“I am Mexican American myself, I am from Texas, my family has been here for generations,” she told NBC News. “And I know we all have stories in our families, sometimes of land being taken from us or other injustices.”

Here’s a clip of the film.

Click here to watch the entire documentary. 

READ: This Exhibition Told The Stories Of Mexicans And Mexican-Americans Who Were Illegally Deported In The ’20s And ’30s