Not many people know that I spent sometime living in Echo Park. It’s a beautiful neighborhood full of life and struggle. At any given moment you can walk by a señora hustling by selling tamales and over hear hipsters talking about what coffee shop they want to hang out in. I got a lot of love for Echo Park, so when the opportunity to collaborate with Red Bull for their latagráfica mural project came up, I was excited to do it there. Echo Park has a long history of being a working class community. In the 60s, Cuban Refugees made it there home, along with raza in the 70s and 80s, but in the last few years, gentrification has changed it into a shadow of its former self.
I wanted to be intentional with the imagery for the mural and where it was going to be placed, that’s why I chose “El Centro del Pueblo”. El Centro provides social services to youth in the community to improve their quality of life, along with families living in Echo Park and the city of Los Angeles. They help meet the needs of the community in whatever shape or form that may take, which is why a lot of their programing is family inclusive. I was also excited that the building had the words "El Centro" on it since I am from the small city of El Centro, CA.
I decided on going with my calavera (sugar skull) in the tradition and spirit of Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead. The calavera is a reminder that death is a natural part of our lives and not something that should be mourned, but celebrated. Teacher and elder Ofelia Esparza once described to me last tres muertes (three deaths) we all under go in our lives: the moment we take our last breath, the moment our spirit leaves our bodies and lastly and the worst of all is when we are forgotten. That’s why we celebrate and honor the lives of our ancestors, to not forget them and to continue breathing life into the traditions and history passed down from one generation to the next.
I originally created the image for a canvas and limited edition prints in 2011. I used imagery and symbols that represented figures like Oscar Zeta Acosta, but also as symbols that serve as a reminder that Chicanas/os are indigenous people as well. The sacred heart comes from Catholicism, as a reminder of how the Catholic Church re-appropriated indigenous symbols and icons for their own gains. Having heart also means having strength, while the fire represents the spirit of ganas, knowledge, and resistance.
The wall was painted on September 5th and I couldn’t have done it without the help of Nick Bowers and Rob Zugala. I have a fear of heights, so I relied on the help of my friends and co-workers, who have also assist Shepard Fairey on most of his murals around the country and abroad, to complete the mural.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to leave this mural in Echo Park and to be working on this project. I can’t do this work on my own, and I just can’t talk about this project without giving thanks and shout outs to a few folks here and there:
- El Centro Del Pueblo for the wall and their work in the community
- Manny Rodriguez for getting the wall
- My brother Eddie
- My girlfriend Dolores for hanging out while the mural got painted
- The homie Picazo
- Tom & Billy for managing the Latagrafica Mural Project
- Red Bull Crew (Christian, Paula, Malverde and the rest of crew)
My mural is number 9 out of 10 in this series of murals that are all over Los Angeles. I’m blessed to be a part of this and to be in such great company with all the other artist participating.