La Alma by Emanuel Martinez, 1978, La Alma Recreation Center

National Trust Press Release

Community Murals Across Colorado by Chicano/a Artists
Named Among America’s 11-Most Endangered Historic Places

Disappearing Murals are Causing Coloradan Heritage and Cultural Identity to Vanish

DENVER — May 4, 2022 —  On the eve of Cinco de Mayo, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the historic Chicano/a/x Community Murals of Colorado across the state to its 2022 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. The Chicano/a/x community murals illuminate an often untold, overlooked, or erased history in cities where Hispanos, Chicanos, and Mexican Americans were key to their development. Although the exact number is unknown, it is believed that more than 40 historic Chicano/a/x community murals exist across the state of Colorado, including the Denver region, Greeley, Pueblo, and San Luis.

Chicano/a/x Murals of Colorado Project (CMCP) nominated these heritage murals to the “11 Most” list, due to increasing threats including rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods in communities across Colorado and a lack of legal protections that put murals at high risk of destruction and erasure. Colorado’s harsh climate can also cause deterioration and fading that threatens murals. As muralists of the Chicano movement age or pass away, there is limited time to restore original murals, and some have already been lost or painted over.

As a part of its efforts to preserve these murals, CMCP sought support from local partners at History Colorado’s State Historic Preservation Office, non-profit Historic Denver, and the City and County of Denver’s Landmark Preservation staff. To make its case to be on the 11 Most list, CMCP highlighted a representative sample of five Chicano/a/x community murals they are seeking to protect and preserve, in addition to many others.

This is the first time the National Trust has included murals on the 11 Most Endangered list, and it reflects the growing commitment of the Preservation Movement to include places that reflect the diversity of the nation. Previous Colorado designees to the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list include Mesa Verde National Park, Denver’s Larimer Square, the Valley Floor of Telluride and the towns of Central City and Black Hawk. Concludes Malone-France, “By focusing greater awareness on these community landmarks, we can encourage their protection and preservation for generations to learn from and celebrate.”

Untitled by Leo Lucero, 1978, Plaza Verde Park, Pueblo
The Chicano/a/x Community Murals of Colorado represent the Hispano history and culture of the Chicano/a/x people of Colorado. They were inspired by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 70s, which used art as a means to educate young people and citizens-at-large about the significant contributions of Hispanos, Chicanos, Mexican Americans, and Latinos to American society. The Chicano Movement seeks to address civil rights, land rights, labor rights, educational equity and equal representation, and artist-activists have helped to create murals in Latinx neighborhoods to inspire pride and strengthen community.
Sierras y Colores by Carlos Sandoval, 1986, San Luis

The murals are not just works of art, they are designed to publicly share important stories about Chicano/a/x, Mexican American, Latinx and Colorado history and are an integral part of the Chicano/a/x cultural identity. The murals provide a sense of place and legitimize the Chicano/a/x presence in the community, linking past, present, and future.  

It is hoped the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places nomination will create awareness about why these legacy murals are significant and in turn propel efforts to survey, designate, protect, and preserve these important historical visual texts. While numerous murals have already been lost, new technology promises to help restore these cherished works of art that have been painted over. 

 

Huitzilopochtli by David Ocelotl Garcia painted in 2008 was whitewashed on April 30, 2020 to create a logo for a new business. CMCP posted on social media the loss of a treasured iconic community mural. The social media responses to this tremendous loss and letters from community members were sent to the responsible party to bring attention to how this act of erasure hurt our community. Months later, CMCP, David, the building owner, and the responsible party reached an agreement to restore this legacy mural. With the guidance of the Social Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) in Los Angeles, we have taken the first steps to remove the white paint from the mural and hope to complete the restoration of Huitzilopochli by the end of 2022.

Historic Denver Project Update

In 2020, Chicano/a/x Murals of Colorado Project (CMCP) and Historic Denver Action Fund will focus on Phase 1 implementation of mural preservation efforts in the La Alma/Lincoln Park Neighborhood.

Goal 1 and Goal 2: CMCP will develop a survey “Plan of Action” report and place interpretation signage for three murals and one portable interior mural:

1. La Alma by Emanuel Martinez, exterior La Alma Recreation Center

2. Learning from the Past, Focused on the Future by Andy Mendoza, Colorado High School Charter, 1175 Osage St.

3. Untitled by Nick Vigil, Denver Inner City Parish, 1212 Mariposa St.

Goal 3 and Goal 4: Purchase and apply Mural Shield product on three exterior murals to protect them from future deterioration.

Inner City Parish mural by Nick Vigil is one of the murals in La Alma Park Neighborhood that CMCP will partner with Historic Denver to preserve. The mural tells a story of a people’s history and their sense of place in Denver.  In the center, Vigil memorializes West High school students and the important role they played during the civil rights movement in Colorado. 

Learning From the Past, Focused on the Future by Andy Mendoza, Linda Clemente, and children from community. 1111 Osage St., Denver. Painted in 1995, describes the history of Auraria, one of the oldest and largest neighborhoods of Chicanos and Mexican Americans in Denver. The neighborhood was destroyed with hundreds of families displaced in the early 1970s.
Photos Courtesy of Andy Mendoza.