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Latino/a Mobility in California History

Genevieve Carpio, Javier Cienfuegos, Ivonne Gonzalez, Karen Lazcano, Katherine Lee Berry, Joshua Mandell, Christofer Rodelo, Alfonso Toro, Authors

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In order to find my sites, I used Yale Online Library eBooks, Google, Google Scholar, government websites and explored citations found in related websites. I wanted to make sure that the websites that I found all had a common theme: the history of the Chicana/o art movement through the story of Los Angeles murals. There was a lot of material that only focused on either Chicanas/os and other sources that simply focused on murals. I struggled to find good historical sources that could represent the movement well or that tried to capture it through murals. In order to find these sources, I ended up exploring Chicana/o murals through Google images and then examining the links where they can be found. Since my review has to do more with art and visual representation, this route allowed me to explore a variety of images and learn more about their history. 

My first source is an eBook titled Walls of Empowerment: Chicana/o Indigenist Murals of California. I examined chapter One “The Dialectics of Continuity and Disruption – Chicana/o and Mexican Indigenist Murals. This eBook focuses on the Chicano murals in Los Angeles, but emphasizes the indigenous roots behind them, as well as reclaiming the space.  It includes ideas that are embedded in the murals, like the importance of preserving La America Tropical by Mexian muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. Latorre writes, “On one level, it was created during a particularly sensitive times in Mexican American history, when the U.S. government was staging mass deportations of Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans to supposedly alleviate the economic devastation for he Great Depression”  (Latorre, 41, 1). 

Then, the author goes down a timeline and highlights Barbara Carrasco’s "L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective," a sixteen-by-eighty-foot portable mural. Carrasco highlights the abuse and injustices that these various groups suffered in the course of the city’s history. According to the historian, it “Shows the figure of an indigenous-looking Chicana holding a feather in her hand while the long tresses of her dark hair begin to reveal scenes from the city’s past (Latorre 56). [2] The eBook highlights this mural because even before its completion, the Community Redevelopment Agency was concerned it portrayed too many negative images such as a depiction of the Zoot Suit riots, the whitewashing of Siqueiros "America Tropical" mural, and a Japanese American girl sitting in a suitcase waiting to be taken to a US internment camp.  These were all images deemed inappropriate for the Los Angeles bicentennial celebration. Officials were afraid that people would become fearful of the city and that Los Angeles would not continue to grow or attract people. 

The PBS American Family Journey of Dreams “The Art of the Mural” by Professor Judith Baca, pushes the need to reclaim a city of Mexican and indigenous roots. She starts her article with David Alfaro Siqueiros' mural of "America Tropical" which spoke to the exploitation of the Mexican worker. Baca states, "With increasing demand for low-wage immigrant labor and massive migrations of Mexican and Central American workers to Los Angeles over the last 10 or 15 years, this image is even more relevant today than in the 1930s. The mural was partially whitewashed shortly after its completion, and then fully painted over within its first year on public view, beginning a legacy of censorship that still haunts Los Angeles.”[3] Whitewashing promotes a high level of ignorance because instead of confronting and acknowledging the pain that the city historically caused to minority groups, it turns a blind eye on them. In order to preserve a clean and safe image of the city, authorities had to cover up part of its history by completely denying public audiences from viewing this informative piece of art.  However, the action of whitewashing the mural was recorded and now serves as evidence of censorship. It is the publics duty and the next generation's duty to preserve incidents like this one to constantly remind people of the pain that minority groups have had to endure.  According to Becca, there was a lack of Latina/o representation in public life and government. However, painting murals was a way of speaking out in a quiet but alarming way. They spoke to the land through their imagery and symbolism which got the reader to pay attention and examin its political statements. 

Furthermore, this source is set up in a “scroll down” style timeline demonstrating the different murals that were painted in Los Angeles over time, like the Great Wall painted by Los Angeles youth in the 1970s, which encompassed a variety of stories and visuals that captured historical markers such as migration outcomes of the Dust Bowl. This website gives perspective from a Chicana artist who has had experience painting murals. This style of writing makes history more vibrant since we are introduced to how she, as a historian and an artist, saw the movement and understood it. She saw this movement as the beginning of a moment of wakening and understood it as a radical action that could bring attract great attention from the city's citizens and immigrants. She concludes by explaining that these murals laid the foundation for other movements and opportunities because they took a courageous step in painting images that were seen as inappropriate by authorities. 

 The KCET website includes links to several Los Angeles communities. I am focusing on Highland Park as discussed in  "Chapter 5 Painting the Walls." Within this site, there are several ways of navigating the story plot. It particularly hones in on a set of nine murals to tell the story of how the community of Highland Park came to be a place where the Chicana/o art movement grew and developed. These topics range from “Plan de Aztlan” to “Reclaiming the city,” themes that are the essence of the Chicana/o art movement.

[1] Latorre, Guisela. Walls of
Empowerment : Chicana/o Indigenist Murals of California. Austin, TX, USA:
University of Texas Press, 2008. Accessed October 7, 2014. ProQuest ebrary.
Page 41

[2 ] Latorre, Guisela Page 56

[3] Baca, Judith. "The Art of the Mural." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 07Oct. 2014. <>.

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