This year for Cinco de Mayo, instead of donning a plastic sombrero and a technicolor poncho and drinking a sugar-based cocktail out of a giant plastic goblet, I behoove you to celebrate by learning the actual history of the day (and no, it’s not about Mexican independence from Spain). Thankfully, KQED Pop’s infinitely wise and with-it podcast, The Cooler, is here to help you lean more.
Does that knowledge make you hungry for information about the rewriting of history and the steady, relentless erasure of marginalized peoples from the cultural landscape? Let me then point you to the California Historical Society’s current exhibition ¡Murales Rebeldes!, which offers a deep look into often short-lived Chicana/o murals in Los Angeles.
While only two of the murals included in ¡Murales Rebeldes! remain on view to the public, the works — filled with messages of pride and frustration borne out of el movimiento the Chicana/o civil rights movement of the ’60s and ’70s — are represented at the CHS in photographs, sketches, related artworks and ephemera. The power of the stories depicted within these murals (including incidents of police violence, celebrations of communities of color, and messages of ecological preservation) and the artists' desire to project these stories into the streets often spelled their downfall. With subject matter deemed too controversial, walls were whitewashed, censored, neglected and destroyed.
¡Murales Rebeldes! gathers the remaining fragments of these large-scale public art pieces and presents them anew, introducing audiences to the work of nine talented artists and the importance of protecting the Chicana/o murals that remain.