Exploring the Latino Metropolis: A Brief Urban Cultural History of US Latinos

Street Art


In more recent decades Muralism has become a popular art form in the Latino community of New York. The purpose of these Murals is primarily to “beautify” and uplift Latino neighborhoods (perhaps the largest neighborhood known for this Spanish Harlem) (About). Inspired by the Chicano movement of the 60s, many of the murals are charged with political messages highlighting current and past struggles of the Latino community in the United States (Dávila 192-193) Murals serve as “markers of Latinidad functioning as mediums of remembrance, protest, [and] celebration” (Dávila183). Prevalent themes seen in murals include indigenous symbolism, patriotic images from the artist motherland, political icons, and pop culture artistic renditions. (Dávila 192-193). For example, the mural above, Soldaderas by artist Yasmin Hernandez is a reinterpretation of Las Fridas by Frida Khalo. The mural located in East Harlem criticizes the animosity between the Mexican and Puerto Rican residents of the neighborhood (Bash). Hernandez reimagines an East Harlem where the two groups can coexist and cooperate with one another to fight injustices in the community. She does this by depicting, Mexican painter, Frida Khalo and, Puerto Rican poet, Julia de Burgos as soldiers fighting for the same cause; this is evident because the two women are holding hands and their hearts are joined by a vessel. Also, historically both Khalo and Burgos became icons of feminism and the fight against injustice (Bash). Muralism in New York City is becoming one of the most common art forms in New York City, because it provides a platform accessible to anybody, which can also help reach a larger audience at one time. According to urban theorist Arlene Dávila, the medium has become such a huge staple of Latino urban culture, to the point that murals are also beginning to be used for marketing in order to target Latino consumers. Not to mention, they are a very Latino popular artform in other cities such as Los Angeles (Los angeles Art) and Chicago (Chicago Art)


Like Muralism, graffiti street art has also become a popular self expressive form within the Latino community (Dávila191). Although graffiti art is more commonly known for its ties to black hip-hop culture, the reality is that graffiti arose from a long history of gangs, violence and crime (Dávila194). Latinos began to write graffiti in the 1970’s and 1980’s through a movement called “bombing” in which the “writers” posted their artwork and stage names all over New York City (Campos). At the time the illegal nature of graffiti was appealing to artists because it hid their true identity given that vandalism was very similar to graffiti, and society had not accepted this culture. Nowadays graffiti artist get much more recognition than they did before, since there is a much clearer distinction between graffiti and vandalism (Dávila 194). Unlike murals, graffiti art is much more reactionary and spontaneous, but it has the same array of purposes that murals have (Davila 194). However, it seems like graffiti, because it is not commissioned like murals are, tends to focus more on showcasing the talent of the artist rather than making politically charged statements. For example, both the mural on the left, titled Lady Liberty is Bush’s Whore, and the Graffiti on the right, Pink on a CC train, were created by renowned Ecuadorian graffiti artist and muralist Lady Pink. The graffiti is an example of the “bombing” that took place in the 70’s and 80’s; this was her way of showcasing her abilities and standing up against machismo within the Latino graffiti community (“Lady Pink”). However the mural, which was commissioned by Time Out NY magazine in 2006, is much more politically charged since it criticizes President Bush’s administration and the erosion of civil liberties (“Lady Pink”). This is why a monkey, who represents president Bush, has lady liberty chained by the throat (“Lady Pink”). Like murals, graffiti has become popular due to its accessability; however Graffiti is unique because it is a product of Afro-Latino interactions in New York City.

​Works Cited

This page has paths:

This page references: