Day 4: Bracero & Farmworker Mural

There is now a deep blue sky line overseeing the two rows of braceros on the right side of the North wall. In it we can see the Aztec star god Coyolxauhqui. This type of art is not commonly seen in the Rio Grande Valley and we are happy to see it embraced by the city of San Juan. In this photo we see the artist, Camille, working on Coyolxauhqui.

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Figures of farmworkers can also be seen emerging on the left side of the wall. They can be seen lifting baskets of apples on their backs.

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High school student Julian Velasquez was among the first neighborhood participants to help with the painting of the mural. When asked if he knew what the images reflected he answered “I’m thinking it’s the bracero program. ” Julian had been exposed to this by his history teacher and had some background information about the program. His enthusiasm was very contagious as he demonstrated knowledge about this historical event. We are glad to see the youth in our community recognize the importance of events such as the bracero program. Thank you Julian for inspiring us all!

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Below is a closer look at Coyolxauhqui and the finished product at the end of day four.

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Day 3: Bracero & Farmworker Mural

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Muralist Raul Valdez begins to give details to the large hands facing palm up. His goal is to give detail to the hard work braceros & farmworkers endured through out their lives. Braceros were often inspected before they could be formally hired to work in the fields. Many times they were asked to show their hands to the inspectors so that they could show their callused hands. With his artistic qualities, Mr. Valdez began to draw out this experience.

People driving by are starting to take notice of the mural. Giving the crew a thumbs up as they pass by is common through out the day. Among those driving by was Mr. Lopez whos father was a bracero. Also stopping by was Mrs. Patty who recognized the photo of the two boys on the east wall. She mentioned that those were her two uncles, one of which lives in Houston now. After taking a picture with her cell phone she was very excited to post this picture on her families facebook page.

End of Day 3

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Day 2: Bracero & Farmworker Mural 5/29/2012

As summer begins in the Rio Grande Valley, neighborhood children stoped by to see what was being drawn on their community pool. Day two began with the incorporation of a locamotive on the right side of the wall. Used to transport braceros from Mexico to the United States, the train gives illustration to the historical context of the bracero experience. UTPA Mexican American Studies alumnus Jose Flores, gives some finishing details on the mural. Image

On the East wall are two brothers, both from the city of San Juan, TX, posing for a picture in the fields. This photograph was given to our volunteers while surveying the surrounding community as to what should be placed on the mural. The image of these young boys gives voice to the residents of the Rio Grande Valley who have worked diligently to harvest the food that we put on our tables. Image

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Day 1: Bracero & Farmworker Mural

Excitement was high on the first day of painting on the now all white canvas wall of the municipal pool in San Juan, TX. Muralist Raul Valdez and UTPA students gathered to brush the first historic strokes that will capture the bracero experience. The first images to take shape were two hands facing palm up and another pair holding an agricultural tool called a short hoe. These images are at the center of the mural and will give a very powerful message to the surrounding community. To the right of the hands are two rows of braceros being fumigated.This was a painful process endured by many Mexican men upon their arival to the United States.

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Bracero & Farmworker Mural

This Blog was created to follow the progress of the mural at the San Juan, TX city pool to honor Braceros and Farmworkers. The mural is possible due to the generous funding provided be the City of San Juan, The Smithsonian Institute through a Community Grant sponsored by the MetLife Foundation and the University of Texas-Pan American’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) program (www.utpa.edu/mas), Cosecha Voices, USDA UTPA extension, Office of the Provost, Phi Iota Alpha, Mexican American Studies Club and Sigma Lambda Beta.
The idea of a mural to honor braceros and farmworkers emerged as students in the MCLL 2301: Mexican American Language, Literature and Culture courses routinely responded enthusiastically to the lesson taught on Chican@ muralism. Their response was “we want a mural.” Dr. Stephanie Alvarez upon hearing their desires remembered when she travelled with migrant students from UTPA to California in 2010 and learning that their favorite part of the trip was seeing the murals in San Francisco and a Chicana Art exhibit in San Jose. They stated that they had never seen anything like it. The students had a deep desire to see themselves reflected in art. Dr. Alvarez was in the process of securing a showing on campus of the Smithsonian Institute traveling exhibit on the Bracero Program, Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964. Moreover, over the last 5 years she has been directing the Cosecha Voices (www.utpa.edu/cosechavoices) program at UTPA, a program dedicated to providing students with the opportunity to document their experiences as migrant farmworkers. She approached Dr. Petra Guerra with the idea to have a mural executed in conjunction with the exhibit to honor the Braceros and Farmworkers of the Valley. Dr. Guerra herself a former migrant farmworker and activist in the Chican@ movement enthusiastically embraced the idea. Furthermore, she had previously worked with a muralist in Austin that she thought would be perfect and willing to take on the project—Raul Valdez http://www.raulvaldez.net. In October 2011, Chuy Ramirez arranged for a meeting with San Juan officials where students and faculty presented their desire for a mural to honor farmworkers and braceros. From day one, the City of San Juan completely embraced the project and quickly moved to approve the mural and its funding. Cosecha Voices and Phi Iota Alpha held a car show, the MAS Club held bake sales and sold BBQ Plates and six MAS faculty members wrote a winning “Community Grant” proposal from the Smithsonian Institute. For almost one year, UTPA students and MAS faculty held forums, conducted oral histories and surveyed the community to understand what they wished to see in the mural. This public community mural directed by Raul Valdez is an attempt to reflect the desires of the people. It is his desire that it not be his mural, but their mural.
Here we share with you the day to day progress made on the actual painting of the mural. Feel free to leave a comment, share with others or contact us at mas@utpa.edu.
Mil Gracias, Christian Ramirez UTPA MAS Grad Certificate Alumnus & Ph.D. Student in Chicano/Latino Studies at Michigan State University.

Day 1 of mural painting

A wonderful start to the bracero mural in the city of San Juan, TX.

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