Murals mean much to San Antonio’s west side

By Maddie Banitez

and Scarlett Pacheco


Mural2The Christianity through Art class at the University of the Incarnate Word took a field trip Sept. 15 went to see some of the 49 murals created on the city’s west side.
The class, under the leadership of Sister Martha Ann Kirk, a longtime religious studies professor, visited five of the murals that have been created by San Anto Cultural Arts: “Eight Stages in the Life of a Chicana,” “Peace and Remembrance,” “Mi Barrio” (neighborhood), “Respect your Barrio” and “Salvación” (salvation).

The class learned three men — known as “Manny,” “Cruz” and “Juan” — came together in 1993 with an idea for creative projects. At first they were part of Inner City Development. Then in 1997, their work was established separately as San Anto Cultural Arts, 2120 El Paso St. This project consisted of the creation and protection of murals — murals that had a special meaning to those who created them. Leaders of the center ask people what they would like. Then they get a lead artist to lay out a plan. Then many people assist in the painting.

“Eight Stages in the Life of a Chicana” showed pMural4re-birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. “Peace and Remembrance” was painted to honor those who have been victims of domestic violence. On the left side are names of people killed. “Salvación,” a painting of Jesus, appears to express how one feels after going through trials in life. It has three words on it: “Paz,” “Salvación” and “Amor,” translated peace, salvation and love. This mural, which often draws people to pray in front of it, is the only mural that has not been touched up or had graffiti spray-painted on it. “Respect your Barrio” is a mural that has people from the neighborhood painted on it. On this mural there was also a figure of what seemed to be a masked wrestler or fighter standing in a protective stance.

Kirk’s class picked up on the meanings.

“The stories of each mural brought light to the purpose of unifying the community,” said Julia Bentley, a communication arts major.

“What San Anto does in creating these murals is provide hope for the hopeless,” said Justice Ureste, a banking and finance major.

When psychology major Sara Suarez saw “Mi Barrio,” a mural that represents the community directly surrounding San Anto and how the community should take pride and protect each other, she shared her reaction.

“I felt so much peace as if I was back home walking through my barrio and seeing my friends and family,” Suarez said.

As the class was looking at the murals oMural5n San Anto Cultural Center and next door, a boy identifying himself only as “Jeremiah,” who lived across the street, came up and started visiting with the group. The boy, who appeared to be about 10 or 11, proudly showed the group he was depicted in the “Respect your Barrio” one.

“Jeremiah, who is painted in this mural, is an obviously bright boy, engaging and charismatic, which I believe is partially due to the influence of San Anto Cultural Arts,” said English major Scarlett Pacheco.

Mural1Religious studies major Tony Vazquez-Colon said, “What touched me the most from the visit was the apparent correlation between the work the center is doing in the community (specifically the murals art, but obviously not limited to it) and a renewed sense of ownership, pride and perhaps hope that permeates among many of the locals like Jeremiah and Cecilia (no last name), and anyone else who becomes interested in supporting what is happening in ‘El Barrio’ like former City Council member Patty Raddle and her husband who came to greet us.”Mural3

For Sara Liu, a communication arts major, “Visiting the murals was an inspiring experience, and I would like to contribute to organizations that make a difference in the world.”


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