#1 - Educacion
Location: 2121 Guadalupe St. at Chupaderas
Dimensions: 14'7 x 13'8"
Date: June 1994
Original artists: Cruz Ortiz and Juan Ramos
Mural crew: Adrian "El Caminante" Cervantez, Carlos Herandez, Manuel "MEME" Castillo, Rina "Taco Lady" Moreno, Patti "Bunkhaus" Radle, Luna family sibings, Mike Kokinda; youth volunteers: Angela, "El Bob," El Necio Kid, Ricardo, Emilio, Rebecca Lopez, Eric "Poncherello" Estrada, Erica
Restoration date: 1999
Restoration artist: Juan Ramos
Educacion is San Anto's first mural, a community response to gang violence and drive-by shootings that plagued the Westside during the 1980's and 90's. Five years later, Juan Ramos restored the mural. Ramos preserved the original concept but made a few changes so the mural would appeal to local youth. For example, the young Chicana girl featured in the middle of the mural was originally depicted as an indigenous woman in traditional clothing. During restoration, artists named the central figure “Lisa," re-painted her to look like a teenager, and gave her a baseball tee instead of a huipil. The mural aims to grab the attention of young Chicanas and enable them to identify as Lisa, a young person who does not fall victim to gang activity because she is empowered by education.
Mural Content and Design
The visual and thematic center of the mural is Lisa, a young Chicana holding a banner that says “Educación” to show that she can triumph over violence through education. The skeletons below her stand in a graveyard with foolish expressions, representing both the ignorance and destructiveness of gang violence. Their faces were painted to imitate Aztec glyphs of the God of Death. The gangsters’ red and blue baseball hats reference the Bloods and the Crisps, two opposing gangs that plagued the Westside in the 80’s and 90’s. Common images in Aztec glyphs, the sun and [name of plant] symbolize growth and life. The kind brown-eyed sun shows the power of education to illuminate a better way of life, and the plant represents the growth of Lisa and other empowered young people like her.
In the background, a row of three temples stand behind a silhouette of the San Antonio skyline. These temples are from the ancient city of Tenochtitlan, modern-day Mexico City. The layered skyline not only situates the mural in a Mexican-American and specifically San Antonian context, but also represents the influence indigenous Mexican history and culture has on present-day San Antonio. Lisa is proud of both her education and her Mexican heritage.
Educación was a mural experiment, both conceptually and technically. Although Cruz Ortiz designed the mural, the content was developed by Manny Castillo. Neither had painted murals before. At first, Castillo wanted the mural project to focus on the Alazan-Apache Courts, but red tape forced the team to find another wall. At the time, the building at Guadalupe and Chupaderas housed Laredo Loans and De La Pena Pawn Shop. Owner Adolfo De La pena agreed to let Ortiz, Ramos, and Castillo brighten his wall with a mural. The artists took a van to the Centro Cultural in Del Rio to learn more about materials and techniques and met with local businesses to secure discounted materials. In the end, Guadalupe Lumber and Herwick’s supplied materials, Robert Ramirez of the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department contributed a scaffold, and the UTSA Mecha group offered the artists a poster printing job that funded the mural almost completely.
Castillo wanted the content of the mural to come from community members, so he worked with Ramos and Ortiz to go door to door and ask local residents about the most important issues in their neighborhood. At the time, people were highly concerned with the apparent epidemic of gang-related shootings on the Westside. Ramos sat down and sketched a mural design with a pencil on a big piece of paper, configuring the concepts and images artists and community members had come up with into a single picture.
Painting Educacion was a process of trial and error. Because the Inner City Mural team had never actually completed a mural before, they tried cleaning and priming the wall with incorrect materials such as Kilz primer and house paint. Designed for the indoors, the paint began to peel after only a few years of sun exposure. Because Ramos was commuting between San Antonio and Austin at the time, Cruz Ortiz finished the mural with the help of several community volunteers. Kids stopped by to help with the mural and receive creative apodos (see names listed under “Mural Crew”). Neighbors filled up buckets of water for painting, brought the artists cold bottled water, and lingered by the scaffolding to chat with artists. Castillo invited the entire neighborhood to a dedication party, and Father Marty from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church blessed the mural. Castillo also handed out the first issue of El Placazo Community Newspaper at the mural blessing.
Throughout the process, Castillo, Ortiz, and Ramos worked to involve community members, especially local youth. Inspired by the work of Casa de la Cultura in Del Rio and the community mural work of Judy Baca, Castillo wanted the mural program to help kids get off the streets and channel their energy in a creative, productive way. The murals also provided an alternative to gang-related graffiti and tagging, and made it possible for community members to themselves with art without paying to visit a museum. When Ramos repainted the peeling mural with more appropriate materials in 1999, he changed the central figure l from an adult woman in a huipil to a young girl named Lisa wearing a baseball tee. This change was meant to help young people identify more closely with the mural.
About the Artists
Assistant Artist and Lead Restoration Artist: Juan Ramos
After earning his MFA from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Juan Ramos began a now eighteen-year career of teaching at the college level at San Antonio institutions including UTSA, Our Lady of the Lake, Northwest Vista College, and Palo Alto College. He has also had residency at Artpace and his work has been exhibited in galleries across the nation. Ramos learned about mural painting when he worked as a mural workshop assistant for Dr. Jacqui Von Honts, a local artist who completed a dissertation on Mexican muralist David Siqueiros.
Ramos befriended San Anto founder Manny Castillo when their punk rock bands went on tour together in 1993. Ramos and Castillo were both drummers and Castillo was living in the volunteer house at Rod and Patti Radle’s Inner City Development. Castillo had a dream of launching a community mural project out of Inner City, but needed an artist on board. Ramos, then 21, had recently begun to contemplate issues of identity politics and to incorporate post-Chicano themes into his work, so the concept of a Chicano-themed public art project appealed to him. He helped put on the first fundraiser for what was then called Inner City Mural Project, a disco party at Tacoland. Along with the third co-founder Cruz Ortiz, Juan Ramos helped to launch what became the San Anto Cultural Arts Community Mural Program. He co-led the murals Educación, Familia y Cultural es Vida, and Mano a Mano, designed Tribute to Martin Luther King, and assisted on El Poder de Muralismo: Cuentos Son Arte, San Anto’s 50th mural project.