UTPA’s Mexican American Studies Program honors those who came in search of work through the Bracero Program between 1942-1964. The conference was held at the University of Texas-Pan American. After surveying the community of San Juan, TX a mural project that had been previously sought out was made into a reality for the community of the Rio Grande Valley. Music by Rumel Fuentes “Huapango Los Trabajos” & Las Cafeteras “La Bamba Rebelde”
August 9th, 2012 was a day of acknowledgement for the community of San Juan, TX and the rest of the Rio Grande Valley. Through muralism, Braceros and Farmworkers were honored and given a space of cultural reflection that is often times neglected. With the completion of the mural, generations of students will be able to discuss, learn, and give value to their community. This deeply needed form of cultural representation was completed with the collective efforts of various UTPA professors, administrators, city officials, and student organizations. This day was made to honor all of those persons who contributed their time, effort, and talents to this project.
The city of San Juan provided much more than economic resources for the mural. Their dedication and commitment was embracive from the beginning. Acknowledging their community member is of great importance in San Juan and it is now visually represented in a space where families and generations will be able to gain knowledge of hardships and triumph.
Above, San Juan mayor San Juanita Sanchez beautifully exhibits her musical talent for the audience.
The ceremony was lead by UTPA professor Dr. Stephanie Alvarez. Her commitment to student engagements and communtiy empowerment has been instrumental in helping her students become socially active members of their community. With her guidance, students regcognize the importance of representation of self.
Once again we would like to thank all those who contributed in giving voice to these brave men. Much of what the Rio Grande Valley is today is owed to those that cultivated our land and ensured a better life for future generations. The work endured by Braceros and that continues to be done by farmworkers across the Unites States will no longer be ignored. Their extremely important contribution to our society will forever be reflected in San Juan!
We invite you to explore the following links to further illustrate the creation of the bracero and farmworker mural in San Juan, TX. Follow our Youtube channel for video clips and our photobucket link for a photographic walk through the daily progress of the mural.
In a matter of four weeks the San Juan municipal pool has been transformed into a statement of resiliency and cultural affirmation for the community of the Rio Grande Valley. Creating a narrative that gives voice to our bracero past and farmworkers, muralist Raul Valdez became the vesal by which this mural was completed. With a team of dedicated individuals, Mr. Valdez was able to complete one of the first bracero murals in the RGV. This important work acknowledges those men who might not have been afforded the same opportunities available in the present. It is our sincere opptomostic hope that this mural is a reflection of their sacrifice and triumph.
The final two day of painting were spent working on some finishing details along the east wall and Toltec column. Also, some children attending swimming lessons also help in painting the “Kids Wall” under the covered entrance. For many of them, this was the first time they had ever seen a mural. Exposing our young community members to muralism was rewarding for the team as they helped each child with their designs.
Erica Herrera and Camille Gerhardt work on finalizing the east wall.
On the final day, all sides of the mural where coated with varnish to protect and give a lasting quality to the paint. Supporting our team were two UTPA alumni who donated their time to help in any way they could. Stephanie Brock and Anna Bell Salamanca assisted with some final detailed paint and varnish.
Joining us from La Union del Pueblo Entero (L.U.P.E) was Juanita Valdez-Cox. Her support through out this project is greatly appreciated. Before leaving for the day Juanita assured the team that the work being done was not unnoticed and very much valued by the community. The expression of gratitude came at the end of our work day and the completion of the bracero and farmworker mural.
In conclusion, we would like to thank all those that were involved directly and indirectly with this mural. The city of San Juan, TX has set forth an invitation for cultural reflection and affirmation for our community. UTPA’s Mexican American studies program and faculty have made great efforts to exposing their students to the importance of inclusion, cultural awareness, and community engagement. This project is evidence of their goal. We hope that this is the first of many murals to adorn our region along the borderlands. As our history and narratives become continuously pushed to the margins, murals such as the one in San Juan serve to promote our historical relevance. A final thanks to all the bracero along both sides of our border and to all the migrant farmworkers across the Rio Grande Valley and beyond. Without you we do not have the substance to feed our families. It is our optimistic hope that this mural honors the work that you do.
Final pictures of the completed mural.
Over the weekend, Austin muralist Raul Valdez and Camille Gerhardt worked on the final piece of art that would complete the north side of the San Juan municipal pool. The morning hours were spent applying the previously prepares parachute cloth to the second level of the north wall. The narrative of hardship and struggle endured by braceros and farmworkers culminates with the image of a family filled with an expression of laughter. Two graduates, wearing zarape stoles, are joined by their parents and sibling in celebration of their academic achievements. This moment of triumph is cast above the adversity of those who perhaps not given the same opportunity and reflects a positive message for our community.
Erica Herrera and Camille Gerhardt work together to make sure the cloth is applied evenly onto the wall.
UTPA student Norma Perez supervises her niece as she paints on the covered entrance for the first time. Norma also helped supervise additional children who stopped by to contribute to their wall.
Eddie Quintero puts some finishing touches that includes a headband that wraps around the Toltec column.
By the end of the day the north wall was completely filled in. The bracero and farmworker narrative has been given a space for recognition and value in Rio Grande Valley. Honoring those men in our community who have endured hardships and triumphs has been a great pleasure for all those involved in this project. We hope that this mural also sets an example for other cities across the Valley as well.
Returning for their fourth week of painting, the team of Austin artist, UTPA students, and alumni have made great advancements in this project. Only a small space of white paint remains on the east wall. The covered entrance was given a neutral earth tone so that children of any age could join our team in efforts to engage them in this community endeavor.
Raul Valdez and Camille Gerhardt quickly finished additional silhouettes of protesters unifying for their rights on the east wall. Utilizing their time wisely, most of this work was done within a few hours after sunrise.
Eddie Quintero, Steve Morin, and Camille Gerhardt continue to work on the Toltec column near the entrance to the pool. Dedicating hours to this task alone has paid off tremendously for our artist. Recreating this image has by no means been easy, but this talented group of artist have made a simple column into a historically relevant figure for our Mexican and Mexican American community.
Our day was shared with a few extra hands who were eager to paint. Erica Herrera assists her 3 year old niece in painting a few flowers near the entrance.
A few minutes later they were joined by others. Muralist Raul Valdez was open to the idea of letting kids paint what they desired on their mural. Many of these young students, most were of elementary age, showed a high level of interest in painting and came prepared with sketch drawing.
Guided by their parents and UTPA student artist, our team of young painters requested to draw palm trees, butterflies, fruits, and an assortment of additional insects. Here we see some of our young community members concentrating on their paint strokes. We are very proud of their beautifully crafted material that now decorates the covered entrance.
Final images at the end of day 18:
Raul Valdez included the United Farm Workers (UFW) flag on the east wall today. With the help of both Norma Perez and Christian Ramirez, the UFW Is proudly held by a figure of a women in protest for human dignity. This powerful image gives voice to our community members who have demanded the just treatment of farmworkers in the Rio Grande Valley.
Camille Gerhardt and Eddie Quintero continued to detail the Toltec warrior at the entrance to the San Juan municipal pool. Wrapping around the column this task demands a great deal of concentration and precision. Both artist collaborate to make their end result as sharp as possible.
Raul has optimistically mentioned the completion of the mural as scheduled. Most of the covered entrance will be painted in by children who wish to volunteer and take part in this project. We encourage our young community members to come and visit with our team and discuss what they want to see on their mural.
Final images for day 17:
The horizon will wrap around the north wall and leads into the covered entrance. UTPA alumni Steve Morin and MAS undergraduate Norma Perez rapidly advanced the skyline on both the north and east side of the building.
Extensive details can also be seen advancing on the column sustaining the covered entrance. This rendition of a Toltec warrior is a distinguished addition to the mural as a reflection of our indigenous history. Embracing this history and materializing our shared past in the form of art is something this generation of Latina/o students greatly needs. Our students in the Rio Grande Valley need to know that their culture is valued in the classroom and also within their communities. These indigenous symbols helps to promote cultural affirmation that is often times neglected in the education of students of color. It is our hope to express a positive message of inclusiveness,cultural awareness, and social progress with this project.
In just a few hours Tonatiuh was given an extensive amount of shading and color. UTPA undergraduate Erica Herrera and Austin artist Camille Gerhardt work together to create an Aztec sun, Tonatiuh, on the north wall.
Raul, Steve, and Eddie discuss different approaches to duplicate the Toltec image.
Final images for day 16:
The north wall, being nearly complete, remained untouched as the team began to paint the east side of the building. Bright colors and silhouettes of men and women marching for their rights will represent the efforts of so many of the community members who have fought for farmworker rights. Erica Herrera and Camille Gerhardt start The day by layering the back ground colors. Supervising their progress Raul Valdez holds up a sketch of the silhouettes and begins to visualize their place on the east wall.
Norma Perez, Eddie Quintero, and Anna Bell Salamanca shade in the different sections of the Toltec column. As an alumni of UTPA and recent recipient of her masters degree in Mexican American studies from San Jose State University, Anna Bell commits part of her day to assisting the crew with anything they need. Eddie has help guide our first time painters as to how they can mix colors to create the appearance of a stone like texture on the Toltec column.
Despite an injured shoulder, muralist Raul Valdez finds himself atop a scaffold ready to paint a figure of resistance and resilience. Raul reminds his crew and community members that this is their mural and not his. This is a consistent discourse that has been introduced through out each phase of the bracero and farmworker mural.
With only a few days left to finish, the team of UTPA students, alumni, and Austin artist have made exceptional strides to complete as much as possible each day.
End of day 15: