Mural Reflects the Hardships of Emigration

By Denis Perez-Bravo

It’s a mural about borders, but to those who helped create it, it’s also about having the same opportunities, regardless of race, religion or color.

Cast on a desert landscape, a blue skull shrine sits to the left, followed by a father hugging his daughter, and a mother with her son. In the middle, butterflies flutter next to a skeleton on his knees praying to La Virgen De Guadalupe (Virgin Mary). On the far right, another woman holds her daughter as someone holds a sign that reads “Defend land and life.”

Joselyn De Leon painted her mother helping her brother, because the 19-year-old wanted to show why people emigrate to the United States:  to have better opportunities after sacrificing so much for their families.

“If you are born on a certain side of a border you have a certain life,” De Leon said.“To be born on this side of the border makes you lucky, but it does not make your life worth more than the ones born on the other side.”

The mural’s message is one of unification between families and the importance of the love family members give to each other.

In collaboration with the Richmond Art Center’s Califas: Art of the US-Mexico Borderlands exhibit, youth from the RYSE Center explored the theme of borders in the new “Keeping Families Together”community mural. The two-month mural project was unveiled Nov. 29 at the Richmond Art Center backyard.

Vanessa “Agana” Espinoza, the project’s director and visual arts coordinator at RYSE, said because Califas examined the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico borders, they wanted to continue the conversation about that theme of family and immigration. 

“I reached out and made a call to artists,” Espinoza said. “The young people I work with at RYSE were told, and they told their friends, and it just formed organically.”

With 27 young artists from the community like De Leon, the project weaves together painting, drawings and pictures into a single message representing a wall.

It rings especially true after a migrant caravan crossing through Central America was used as a weaponized talking point by President Donald Trump, who campaigned on and continues to push for a border wall between Mexico and the United States. This is despite research from the Pew Research Center that shows the flow of illegal immigration in the United States has been decreasing since 2005, even more so after the Great Recession.

Still, the Trump Administration continues a policy of indefinitely detaining underage children who cross the border unattended. Many of these children are fleeing war, gang violence, and corrupt governments. Back home, these children saw no future and decided to leave their families for a better life.

One of the mural’s artists, JosePerez III, says crossing a border is much less worse than what immigrants have in their home countries. Perez said it is unfair to tell people to stay in an inhumane place.

“People need to move freely because, if someone is stuck in one place, they have limitations and limits can kill their dreams,” the 21-year-old said.

In the center of the mural is a painted landscape of a desert, a familiar scene to those who have crossed the border in a country where its leader is cheered on to build the wall.

When Marisol Lara looks at it, she sees the desert her mother crossed. Over the summer, she visited that same desert to see it with her own eyes.

“It made me really realize what people have to do to get here,” Lara, 19, said.  

These kinds of stories were all discussed during the month-and-a-half long planning and design process. There were stacks of ideas, but the final say went to the youth artists.

After the planning, it was time to put paint to canvas.

But the Butte Fire burned and the air became toxic. After that, it rained. The colors dripped and washed away.

Still, like their families in the desert, they persisted.

The mural will be featured at the 8th Annual San Francisco Youth Art Summit. After that, you can find it at the RYSE Center — its home. 

No Comments

Post A Comment

Enjoy our content?