By Ernesto Saavedra
This past summer, I was invited to check out a mural some friends of mine were working on located on the outskirts of the Tower District, specifically, on Olive between Arthur and Adoline. It was a beautiful scene, good music and good vibes. The theme of the mural was inspiring as it features two farmworkers, one Mexican and the other Hmong, working the land we often take for granted. Very powerful imagery.
What you see on the cover is an image of a Hmong woman digging through the earth with a garden hoe. If you look closely, you see that there is blood at the end of the garden hoe, symbolic of the pain and sacrifice of working in the fields and digging the land for subsistence. Like many in the Fresno community, my parents worked in the fields to survive when they first came from Mexico and I have family members, young and old, that still do. To see this mural is seeing my parents, my community, and reminds me to never forget and to never disconnect from the earth.
I asked Mauro Carrera, one of the many folks that worked on the mural, how this mural came about and the meaning behind it:
“‘El Choco Fresh’ (Juan Vejar, but he prefers his alias) made this mural possible by linking up with Daniels Appliance to sponsor a mural at their shop. Daniels Appliance is a family business, and the younger generation was supportive and gave us all artistic freedom and funding. They only suggested a fieldworker theme but were open to any designs. Choco Fresh and I agreed a fieldworker theme would be great.
“I based the design on an image of a Mexican fieldworker I found online from the 1970s and a second image I got from local photographer Matt Black of a Hmong woman working the Fresno fields.
“Soon after, I invited Rigoberto Garcia to contribute to the mural. Rigo designed a rising sun with a Zapatista print over the rays.
“Ana Pano completed the mural with the green fields in the background and Hmong and Mexica inspired patterns that rise from the ground and interact with the workers.
“We received a lot of love from the community. Many homies from the Barrio Art Collective and Brown Berets joined us for our last paint session. Jonathan Luevanos, Rigoberto Garcia and Jose Torres played very inspiring music. The whole experience culminated in one moment when the guys played a beautiful son jarocho titled ‘La Caña’ where they describe the earth as a dark-skin person sown by injustice and pain, the worker with his tools cultivating the magic and injustice in the crops, and a relentless effort to survive while embracing the good and bad while becoming one with the fields.” View a video of ‘La Caña’ at www.youtube.com/watch?v=pj0I7GgksFk.
“Unfortunately the Choco’s Aztec-inspired glyphs surrounding the mural were later erased because the founder of the business thought they related to graffiti.”
I hope others get inspired to do murals in their communities that tell our stories.
Ernesto Saavedra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.