?íYa Basta! Genocide of Community Murals

Raise your fist!

By Leonor De Fuentes
Published on LatinoLA: September 1, 2011

?íYa Basta! Genocide of Community Murals

On July 3, 2011, Raul Gonzalez (pictured), the Executive Director of Mictlan Murals, posted on his Facebook, "Today, I have to erase one of my favorite murals in Boyle Heights...the Inner City Struggle today, gone tomorrow..."

"Raise the Fist! We want change!" mural has been the motivation for many people in our neighborhood; it has motivated many of us, to continue with our struggles in trying to change the many systems of oppression that exists against the poor.

The mural, "Raise the Fist!", was painted by Raul Gonzalez, Joseph Manuel Montalvo (Nuke), and the neighborhood youth in 2001, it was a mural embedded between little tienditas, full of color, amazing strokes, caught one's attention as you drove on Whittier Blvd.

My heart dropped when I read Raul's comment. I read the responses posted back to him. The Executive Director of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA) Isabel Rojas-Williams responded back to him. I thought, "Yes!" an organization is stepping up to the plate.

According to their Facebook page, "MCLA advocates for the rights of artists and
public art, working with artist to support the integrity of their work. MCLA promotes local artists and public murals in order to sustain Los Angeles as one of the great mural capitals in the world." Well, my illusion dispersed into thin air, an organization that advocates for the rights of artists and public murals, but her response to Raul, was, "Send me pictures." This is MCLA's advocacy on behalf of artists and public art. Is this how they advocate for our rights? I was disgusted.

Another organization that uses our community mural artwork for their own benefit, prostituting our neighborhood walls, only for the organization to obtain funding by foundations and individuals, making them believe they are part of an organization that fights for the rights of artists and their artwork.

I raise my fist! "Ya Basta!" if you're tired of all these organizations coming into our neighborhood, and not politically advocating for our needs. How does MCLA advocate for the rights of artists? Isn't MCLA an organization that acts as visual artist's defenders, as the community art sentinel that does not allow L.A. cultural patrimony to be destroyed? The executive director, Isabel Rojas-Williams should have been in front of Councilmember Jose Huizar's office trying to set up time to meet with him, instead of posting her comment on Facebook. Bringing attention to the genocide of community murals that has rapidly deleted our community history and struggles with the fascist censoring delegated by city legislation.

No advocacy was made on behalf of MCLA, to save the community mural "Raise your Fist!" but of course, a great deal of PR by MCLA, as posted it on their Facebook on the whitewashing of the commissioned and sanctioned mural that covered MOCA's exhibit, "Art in the Streets."

My question is, what is the difference between a neighborhood mural and a mural commissioned by an institution? Why doesn't MCLA give all murals the same preferential treatment? "Ya Basta!" Raise your Fist if you're tired of all these organizations coming into our neighborhood, and not politically advocating for our needs.

The MCLA's executive director lack of political advocacy concerns many community members like myself. What should we expect from organizations that emphasize in their mission statement, that their purpose of existence, is for us the artists and community members.

An organization like MCLA, could have met with the councilmember to see if funding existed to move the mural to a different location, keeping community members informed through the social media that MCLA uses so frequently: Facebook. Maybe MCLA, as an art advocate organization, could have talked with the property owner of the building to see the possibilities in saving the community mural in our neighborhood of East L.A.

Art political advocacy should have existed in this situation by MCLA. According to SPARC, Los Angeles has lost more than 60% of murals; well we have lost another mural today.

About Leonor De Fuentes:
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