Historians and artists, unite and rejoice: Last night, local Latino arts and culture nonprofit Hola Cultura released two new maps tracking D.C.’s Latino murals.
The first map displays more than three dozen murals, including the endangered mural sited over the Potter’s House entrance in Adams Morgan; “Felipe’s Story,” a mural on the side of BloomBars that tells of a boy growing up in a Brazilian favela; and the “es/is” mural alongside Tubman Elementary School in Columbia Heights.
The second map takes a time-lapse approach, mapping murals that have come and gone since the 1970s. It’s worth noting that only half of the murals painted since that time are still in existence today.
The project, co-sponsored by Murals DC, is part of a lead-up to Web documentary slated for a spring 2015 release, El Barrio, put together by Hola Cultura’s executive director, Alberto Roblest. El Barrio (“the neighborhood” in Spanish) is the historic Latino community that dissolved into what’s now Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, and Mount Pleasant. The maps are a follow-up to a 2012 Web documentary, Muralismo DC, which chronicled the history and traditions of D.C.’s Latino murals.
Murals tell stories, offer document of events, and bring migrant communities together. Before recent development and population shifts transformed the character of Adams Morgan, Latinos used murals to beautify El Barrio, which struggled with the blight of 1980s D.C. Many of these murals, some of which were painted on temporary surfaces like plywood, have been destroyed or damaged from changes in the neighborhood.
Mural-painting is rooted in Latin American tradition. The art form was used in post-revolutionary Mexico by Los Tres Grandes—-Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Sigueiros, and José Orozco—-to brighten the nation. Mexican-Americans in the 1960s painted on homes, housing projects, and schools to promote cultural identity, challenge racism, and support the migrant workers movement in the Southwest.
Central to Hola Cultura’s Latino murals project is this spring’s restoration of “Un Pueblo Sin Murales es un Pueblo Dismuralizado/ A People Without Murals is a Demoralized People,” painted in the mid-’70s by Carlos “Caco” Salazar. Local artist Juan Pineda tackled the restoration using a paint-can technique inspired by his experience as a graffiti artist. “Un Pueblo” acts as a warning for the people of El Barrio: “A people without without memories are a people without history,” says Roblest. “A people without nothing.”
“Felipe’s Story” photo by Flickr user eshutt, Creative Commons license