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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.

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

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