Latino Heritage in Los Angeles: Murals

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“Pope of Broadway” by Eloy Torrez | Photo courtesy of Laurie Avocado, Flickr

Murals are a city's urban canvas, expressing the history, concerns and aspirations of a community. Though they are susceptible to weather, vandalism and decay, murals are also freely visible and open for all to enjoy. For generations, Los Angeles has been renowned as one of the world’s great mural capitals. Latino artists and their culture are an integral part of the city’s mural heritage. You can travel between multicultural neighborhoods and view murals as if they’re on display in the wings of a vast, concrete museum. Here are ten exemplary pieces to discover throughout L.A.

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América Tropical | Photo courtesy of Omar Bárcena, Flickr

América Tropical

Along with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, the great Mexican muralist/painter, David Alfaro Siqueiros established "Mexican Muralism." The tradition continues in Mexico today and inspired the Chicano art movement in the U.S. During his time in Los Angeles, Siqueiros created América Tropical, an 80x18 foot mural located above Olvera Street, the birthplace of Los Angeles. Completed in 1932, the mural depicts a Mexican Indian crucified on a cross beneath an American eagle, with two sharpshooters aiming at the eagle from nearby. It's the first large-scale mural in the U.S. that created a public space by being painted on an ordinary exterior wall. The mural’s political message about the exploitation of Mexican workers caused immediate controversy, and it was soon completely whitewashed. América Tropical was restored by the Getty Conservation Institute and opened to the public in October 2012 with a new viewing platform and interpretive center.

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“Siqueiros: La Voz de la Gente!” | Photo courtesy of Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles

Siqueiros: La Voz de la Gente!

In February 2012, a stellar group of artists paid homage to David Alfaro Siqueiros with Siqueiros: La Voz de la Gente!, located in an alley off La Cienega Boulevard in Culver City. The mural was painted as part of Latino Heritage Month. The collaborative work was organized by Anna Siqueiros, the iconic artist’s great-grand niece, who gathered famed muralists and graffiti artists such as Ernesto de la Loza, Willie Herrón III, Carlos Callejo, Carlos Duran, Juan Carlos Muñoz, Fabian Debora, Raul Gonzalez, Nuke, Defer, Blossom and more.

The Great Wall of Los Angeles in Valley Glen
The Great Wall of Los Angeles | Photo courtesy of The City Project, Flickr

The Great Wall of Los Angeles

This epic, half-mile long mural tells the story of California from prehistory to the 1950s. Known as one of the longest murals in the world, The Great Wall of Los Angeles contains chronologically ordered vignettes, beginning with dinosaurs on one end and the Baby Boom at the other. The mural was designed by Judith Baca, founder of the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC). The mural was begun in 1974 and completed over five summers, employing over 400 youth and their families from diverse social and economic backgrounds, working with artists, oral historians, ethnologists, scholars, and hundreds of community members.

White Memorial Medical Center

The grounds of the White Memorial Medical Center contain many paintings, sculptures and tile work for patients to peruse as they convalesce. One of the most prominent is a tile mural on the Cesar Chavez Avenue side, Comunidad by Jose Ramirez. The 2004 mural features a Los Angeles cityscape in the background and its multicultural citizens in the foreground.

Tikkun Olam - To Repair the World

Across the street from the medical center is Tikkun Olam - To Repair the World, by George Yepes. The 1997 mural rises 36 feet on the side of a parking lot, depicting Christ on the cross as well as after his resurrection. Music fans will recognize Yepes from his cover art for the 1988 Los Lobos album, La Pistola y El Corazon.