9 Must-See Murals by Chicano Artists in East LA
Learn about LA’s Chicano culture through street art.
While Los Angeles museums are currently closed for in-person visits, you can still get a taste of art and culture by exploring the city’s outdoor murals. One of the best places to do this is in East LA, the birthplace of the Chicano art movement that began in the 1960s. Inspired by Mexican muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, and José Clemente Orozco, Chicano artists used public art as a way to share their culture, history, and political commentary with a larger audience. The murals did more than beautify the neighborhoods, they helped create a sense of pride in the community and also inspired future artists. Thanks to these pioneers, Los Angeles now has a rich mural art tradition and plenty of celebrated street art to visit. We went back to where it all started in East LA, to look at some historic and newer murals by Latinx artists. Here are our top ten murals in the neighborhood:
We are Not a Minority
Artists: El Congreso de Artistas Cosmicos de la Americas de San Diego (Mario Teror, Rocky, El Líon, Zade)
This tribute to Che Guevara is based on a black-and-white silkscreen by Mario Teror that said “You Are Not a Minority,” but the artist changed the “you” to “we” to be more inclusive. It serves as a mantra to all so-called minorities, that oftentimes they are not minorities in their own communities. There are several other murals worth exploring within the Estrada Courts, considered the birthplace of the Chicano art movement, but keep in mind it is a housing community and be respectful of the residents.
Location:Estrada Courts, 3217 W. Olympic, 90023
Orale! Let’s Cruise on Over to Progression, Aye!
Artist: Sergio Robleto
Commissioned by the owners of First Street Pool & Billiard, Orale! features the smiling faces of Wayne Healy and David Botello, founding members of the muralist art collective Los Dos Streetscapers, these artists collaborated on their first mural in just 3rd grade. In Robleto’s creative rendering of the artists, they’re seated in a car similar to the one they painted in their Filling Up on Ancient Energies (1983) mural. While the car heads West a deity inspired by Tlalocayotl, the Aztec god of the East Wind, looks after them.
Location: First Street Pool & Billiard, 1906 E 1st St., 90033
Mamá y Papá
Artist: Man One
Located in Chano’s parking lot, is this brightly colored homage to the artist’s parents, Alejandro and Fidelia. Commissioned by Thrillist, the only request they made was that his mural reflect Mexican culture, so the artist pitched them the most Mexican thing he knew: his parents. Behind their portrait is a desert scene and framed by his take on papel picado, complete with objects of interest like spray cans. While you’re in the area, turn the corner for tacos from the Estrella Jalisco stand.
Location: 1907 Gates St., 90031
Vanessa Guillén Homage
Artist: Sand One
East LA native Sand One takes part in the long-held mural tradition of memorializing those that have passed with Vanessa Guillén, a long-lashed portrait of the U.S. Army soldier who was brutally murdered by a fellow soldier in Fort Hood Texas in April 2020. Sand One transformed Guillen into one of her signature “Dolls,” not only paying respect to the young woman’s life but ensuring that her tragic death is not forgotten.
Location: 498 S Ford Blvd East, 90022
Muro que Habla, Canta y Grita (The Wall That Speak, Sings, and Shouts)
Artist: Paul Botello, Gerardo Herrera, Adalberto Ortiz, and Gustave Sanchez
Right off Whittier Blvd in Ruben F. Salazar Park, this mural was commissioned by Los Tigres del Norte, a popular Nortena band whose portrait can be found on the left side of the wall. The lively and complex work touches upon various themes including resistance, immigration, scientific advances, family life, and key historical figures within the Chicano community. Included in the mural is journalist Ruben F. Salazar, the park’s namesake.
Location: Ruben F. Salazar Park, 3864 Whittier Blvd., 90023
In the months following the untimely death of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi, artists took to the streets to express their grief in the form of murals and makeshift memorials. So many murals were created, in fact, that the website KobeMural was started as a way to share the locations of murals around the world. In this mural tucked away amongst homes in Boyle Heights, Vela created a vibrant, cubist-like portrait of the basketball great that brightens up the surrounding area.
Location: 1060 N Fickett St., 90033
Journey to Knowledge / Un viaje al Conocimiento
Artist: Jose Antonio Aguirre
In a departure from the painted murals on this list is Jose Antonio Aguirre’s tiled piece, inspired by fellow Chicano muralist David A. Siquiero’s integration of architecture and art in his work. The mural focuses on three elements: an eagle, Tonatiuh (the sun god in Aztec mythology), and a shaman, or curandero. The mural can be found at Hilda L. Solis Learning Academy and was intended to inspire the students to soar in their studies and also have pride in their cultural heritage.
Location: 4498 New York Street, 90022
Artists: (left to right) Vyal Reyes, Leo Limon, Wayne Perry, the Esparza Family (Ofelia Esparza, Rosanna Esparza-Ahrens, Jacqueline “Jaxiejax” Sanders-Esparza, Elena Esparza), Los de Abajo (Poli Marichal, Don Newton, Kay Brown, Nguyen Li, Victor Rosas Marianne Sadowski), Yolanda Gonzalez, John Carlos de Luna, William Acedo, Asylm, Margaret Alarcon, Fabian Debora, Ricardo Estrada, Raul Gonzalez, Raul Baltazar, and Sand Oner
While Self-Help Graphics remains closed to the public, you can still admire the art outside of the community art center in Boyle Heights. The mural is composed of several vignettes by 15 individual artists. Self Help Graphics invited the artists to paint pieces representing their experiences at Self Help and to imagine the future of artists and the Boyle Heights community.
Location: Self Help Graphics, 1300 East 1st. St., 90033
Mexico-Tenochtitlan: A Sequence of Time and Culture
Artists: Andy Ledesma, John Zender Estrada, Rafael Corona, Jaime Ochoa, Dominic Ochoa, Isabel Martinez, Oscar De Leon, Mario Mancia, Jesse Silva, Anthony Ortega, and Jerry Ortega
Also called, “The Wall that Talks,” this massive mural in Highland Park blends together symbols from Aztec, Mayan, Native American, African, and other cultural iconography all in unity with one another. On the left side of the mural we see the creation of life. Winding its way through a majority of the painting is Quetzalcoatl, the ancient Aztec feathered-serpent god who rules over wind, air, and learning.
Location: 6037 N. Figueroa Street and Avenue 61, 90042
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