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

Fans Crowded Around LAX To Welcome Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez To Los Angeles And His New Soccer Team

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Fans Crowded Around LAX To Welcome Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez To Los Angeles And His New Soccer Team

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Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is one of the greatest soccer players right now. Some might even argue that he is one of the most beloved on the pitch. Now, Los Angeles will get a chance to watch Chicharito work his magic for the L.A. Galaxy.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is joining Major League Soccer to play for the L.A. Galaxy.

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Imaginémonos cosas chingonas.

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Chicharito is the highest-paid MLS player since David Beckham was recruited into the North American soccer league. The L.A. Galaxy reportedly paid a $9.4 million fee to Sevilla to transfer Chicharito to their time and his guaranteed annual salary will be $6 million.

Fans of soccer and Chicharito are looking forward to what the star player will bring to the new team.

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“Chicharito is an outstanding player,” Yon de Luisa, the president of the Mexican Football Federation, told CNN.”He’s the Mexican national team’s leading scorer historically and I am sure he is going to have an outstanding participation here in LA.”He’s going to develop a magnificent rivalry against Carlos Vela, who is his friend, and they will be playing head-to-head in this civil war in LA,” added De Luisa, referring to Hernandez’s Mexican international teammate who plays for rival Los Angeles FC.”I really think it’s going to be a good thing for the city, for MLS and for us as well to have Chicharito closer to the national team.”

The move from the European league to the North American league was not an easy decision for Chicharito.

In an emotional video that is going around social media, Chicharito calls his parents and talks to them about his decision to move to MLS. During the call, the global soccer star breaks down in tears telling his parents about his journey in making the decision.

“It’s the start of the process of retiring, you know,” Chicharito said in the emotional video. When his dad pushes back, Chicharito says, “No, no, Dad, but what I want…I’m saying goodbye – and we’re saying goodbye – to a career in which we worked a lot and I know you guys feel it as well and we’re going to see the positive side and it’s going to be amazing. But if we want it or not, we’re now retiring from the European dream.”

The video is a touching and humble reminder that the superheroes we see on the field are people just like the rest of us.

Credit: @Kyndrasports / Twitter

We’ve all been there before. There is something so grounding and necessary about calling your parents when you need advice or are going through a hard time. We’ve all cried to our parents about different issues throughout our lives. Who doesn’t have a memory of crying to their parents over a hard decision and feeling better after the phone call?

Fans in Los Angeles couldn’t wait to welcome Chicharito to his new city and team.

Chicharito stans learned when he was arriving at Los Angeles International Airport so they showed up and gave him a hero’s welcome. For those of you who have ever traveled in and out of LAX you know how hard it is to get in and out of the airport with the traffic. That just goes to show how much Chicharito is truly loved by those who have followed his career.

Some fans are just happy that Chivas’s loss is their gain.

Credit: @NELAWOLF323 / Twitter

It is kind of incredible that the Mexican soccer team hasn’t tried harder to bring back one of the best players. Perhaps there isn’t enough money or Chicharito just doesn’t feel like going back just yet.

Welcome to Los Angeles, Chicharito. We are happy to have you!

Who’s excited to see Chicharito play in L.A.?

READ: Chicharito Announced In A Gender Reveal Party That He Is Having A Chicharito Of His Own

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

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

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Frida Kahlo’s Death Has Long Been The Subject Of Debate —This Play Unpacks The Painter’s Last Week Of Life 

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

This Play Explores The Last Week Of Frida Kahlo’s Life —And The Mystery Will Have You On The Edge Of Your Seat

There have been many movies, television dramas and stage productions based on the life and works of Mexico’s most famous artist Frida Kahlo, but none of these stories had ever explored the woman’s last week of life. As it turns out, her death has been an open-ended and unanswered question mark. Many believe there was a cover up, and this play dives deep into the mystery. 

The award-winning playwright and actress, Odalys Nanin explores the mental, emotional and physical condition during the last week of Frida Kahlo’s life in her latest play.

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$25 Early bird tix at machatheatre.org

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‘Frida: Stroke of Passion’ peels away the secret cover up of the painter’s death and reveals what or who killed Frida Kahlo.

Until recently, Nanin, managed and produced at the MACHA Theatre in West Hollywood, CA, a company she founded years ago.

After writing and producing nearly a dozen plays, Nanin presented her last production at the MACHA last fall. The play was another original she wrote, this time about Mexico’s most controversial artist, and one of the world’s most famous painters, Frida Kahlo. 

Frida: Stroke of Passion, enjoyed a three-month long run last fall and received rave reviews and awards.

Frida Kahlo died July 13, 1954. Her death certificate alleges cause of death: “pulmunary embolism” but no autopsy was allowed and she was immediately cremated. The play explores her mental, emotional and physical condition during the last week of her life – exposing her love affair with famous Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, Maria Felix, Josephine Baker, Tina Moddoti, Leon Trotsky, a Cuban spy and her complex passionate love for Diego. 

Back by popular demand and with a grant from LA County Arts, DAC and CAC, “Frida: Strokes of Passion” premieres February 7 in Boyle Heights for six shows.

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In Nanin’s tale, Kahlo’s bout with bronchopneumonia and the loss of her right leg left her frail and numb, “Her right leg had been amputated from the knee down so she is either in her wheel chair or bed ridden.  She was under a lot of pain killers and alcohol in order to numb her pain. So she was between a daze of sleep and awakening.”

“Espero que la salida sea gozosa, y espero nunca mas volver.”

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In a diary entry written just days before her death, she wrote, “I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return.” For these reasons, Nanin believes the artist took her own life.

In the play, Nanin delves deeper into Frida’s sexuality.

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“What initiated the spark of passion in me to write about Frida Kahlo was because as a lesbian Latinx I relate to her courage and fearless determination to stand up to injustice and to be the voice of the voiceless through her art and political activities.” 

The main players in the story are Kahlo’s tormented husband, Diego Rivera, the love of her life, but there were other lovers.

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Her passion didn’t just start or end with Rivera, there were several women in-between and one other man who also captured her heart, and during her final days, they all came visiting– taunting and haunting her with the memories they each represented. Women like Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, Mexican movie star Maria Felix, cabaret singer and dancer Josephine Baker, famous model and photographer Tina Modotti, and Cuban revolutionist/spy Teresa Provenza. There was also the ghost of Leon Trotsky, a man she admired and loved and whose murder haunted Kahlo for the rest of her days.

The production has also been released in the form of a book. 

Nanin has written a book capturing her play in print– the story goes far beyond Kahlo’s Mexican and European Surrealism, and her indigenous Mexican culture influence. Frida Kahlo hated societal rules and traditions at every level, and she felt shackled as a woman. In the book, Nanin explores her frustrations, her love affairs, her queerness and overall, her passion for art. 

“Frida – A Stroke of Passion” runs February 7–9 and 14–16 at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays at the Casa 0101 Theatre in Los Angeles. For tickets and more information, click here.