When Salvador Barajas responded to a request for proposal for a mural project from the National Chamber of Commerce in August, he had two wishes.
First, of course, he and his painting partner will be entrusted.
Second: “I don’t want to paint because it’s likely to rain in November, December and January. It’s going to get cold,” Barajas said.
Only one wish has come true.
So, under the sky in late November, Barajas and the villager Gillermo “Jermo” Aranda have a lifelong portrait and scene of Manuel Cavada on a large red brick wall in downtown National City while a gust of wind blows papers. I was drawing.
Known as a memo, Cavada was a prolific photographer based in National City who recorded his life in San Diego and Mexico. He died of cancer last year at the age of 76.
The pandemic made it difficult for people to say goodbye or mourn, said Carlos Solorio (and a former photography student in Kabada), a board member of the National City Chamber of Commerce. Murals are, in a sense, one way to freeze time and build a permanent place for lost local heroes.
For decades, Kavada and his lenses have been equipment for civilian events and private celebrations, especially among Latin families. He took pictures of weddings and schools. He also traveled to Mexico and spent years capturing its ecology and traditions.
“His history is much of our history,” said 77-year-old Aranda. “He recorded the Chicano movement, a Mexican-American community of activities, events, politics, culture, etc. He was there. He was always taking pictures.”
David Abalos, a professor emeritus of visual arts at the University of California, San Marcos, said Kabada’s influence was inseparable from his roots.
“I often hear stories of someone standing up and distinguishing themselves despite the background of the ghetto. Despite the background of their barrio. And I think it’s really unfortunate,” says Abalos. I did. “Memo Kavada stood up to distinguish himself because Of the community in which he was born
The murals dedicated this week are a homage to all of them. There are monarch butterflies, marigolds, portraits, where he worked and taught, renderings of his children, and scenes of his life (Air Force, Career, Family) taken by Monarch butterflies. On the far right is a double portrait. Kavada is smiling and towards the edge he is riding a horse.
“I always thought of him as a warrior,” Aranda said.
Kavada was not the only subject of the painter. He was their best friend.
“We talk about him constantly while we’re working on it,” Barajas said when Aranda left the wall to assess their progress. “All memories, the restaurant we go with him, what we do with him. You know, I also ask him a question. Note, is this correct? Or how? Do you think? “
Abalos sees this mural and the way it was born as a symbol of self-determination in its subject matter and in its very existence. Two local artists painted a local subject who spent their lives recording the local subject.
“It’s artwork from scratch,” Avalos said. “Often, work is imposed on the community, whether they like it or not, whether they are aware that it is being created or even being worked on.”
Message of solidarity
In 1973, Aranda and Barajas worked on another mural project, Chicano Park. Cavada took a picture.
Their lives continued to cross, even after they traveled hundreds of miles away. They were also in the Air Force at about the same time.
78-year-old Barajas dreamed of becoming an architect when he grew up poorly in Colonia Libertad, a rough part of Tijuana. He moved to the United States in 1961 to help his father support his family and eventually pursued his career as a designer and art director in Los Angeles. However, he continued to paint murals, and Kavada continued to take pictures of him, recording the events of the community.
“Monkeys Trans Fronte RisoMr. Abalos pointed to a person who embodies the social, artistic, cultural, political and economic aspects of cross-border life.
Aranda’s murals run up and down the west coast from Canada to San Diego. He studied under the mural painter Gilberto Ramirez at San Diego State University and led Avalos to call Aranda “a wonderful physical and blood connection to the Mexican mural movement.”
Aranda currently lives in the city of Watsonville, near Santa Claus. This year and at the end, he was named Santa Cruz Artist of the Year.
Mileyagomez Contreras, Deputy Director of Arts Council Santa Cruz County, was a student of Aranda, just like the children of Aranda.
“The community, our community, Guillermo’s message about solidarity and art as a united element of this community, is one of the most powerful gifts he has given us,” Gomez-Contreras said. .. “Art breaks through barriers and boundaries, and he really embodies that powerful message.”
To return home
This new mural is about 0.5 miles from where Aranda grew up. But until now, his paintbrush has never touched the walls of National City.
I feel that the city is unrecognizable around him. He used to hunt rabbits around the current mall. The wall he painted about 20 years ago was new to him.
“I keep trying to imagine what happened here before, do you know? And I don’t even remember,” he said. “I’m only aware of the Mile of Cars. Oh yeah. It was from the beginning.”
The mural is also a sign of change. The square next to the Chamber of Commerce could host an open-air market, Solorio said. Public art was suspended during the pandemic. The project shows that public art is gaining momentum again, partly funded by small donations and partly by grants.
Solorio wants to “jump start” a new wave of murals in National City.
“We are trying to apply the term gentrification, not gentrification,” he said. “We build it and then organically bring about an economic recovery.”
Popescu is a freelance writer.