On Sunday, members of San Jose's Chicano community gathered on the East Side to express frustration and call for action after one of the city's oldest murals was painted over under cover of darkness late last month.
For three decades, "Mural de la Raza" decorated the wall of 2048 Story Road, a former Payless shoe store, with epic scenes from Aztec history, Chicano legends like Cesar Chavez and local sports heroes.
A view of the mural as it looked before being painted over:
Artist Jose Meza Velasquez created the mural in 1985 with the help of local youth. He says he could not have predicted how important the piece would become to the area.
"We, as artists, paint the work and we never know what will happen later on," says Meza Velasquez.
The building changed hands several times over the years, and it was recently sold once again. Jose Valle, a community organizer with local advocacy organization Silicon Valley De-Bug, says that despite his organization's efforts to preserve the mural, one morning it was gone.
That is, almost all of it. Workers initially left the Virgin of Guadalupe, but she was eventually painted over, too.
"I guess the first round of workers didn't have the heart to finish the job," says Valle.
The mural was painted over with a solid gray layer of paint, but the wall is now tagged with graffiti. Some of the new messages reflect the mural's original themes of unity and pride.
"This says, 'Down for My Raza,' so that's a message right there," says Valle. "The youth are angry, they're hurt."
For Valle and others that grew up here, there's a sense that they are the ones getting painted over amid the pressures of gentrification and divisive political rhetoric on the national stage.
"I'm gonna be honest. Chicano studies is something that unfortunately a lot of us don't get to learn," says Valle. "The only way for someone like me to know my culture and my history is murals like this."
Valle is asking the city to either help restore the mural or to help organize a similar art project.
The day after the mural was painted over, Magdalena Carrasco, San Jose's vice mayor, posted a message on Facebook saying that she was working with a coalition of community members to restore the mural in some way.
We "will be working with the community to strategize a solution to restore the mural and or preserve the space. We hope the new property owner is willing to collaborate with us on this opportunity," Carrasco wrote.
Artist Meza Velazquez says he's also exploring legal action over the destruction of his work.