A Brief History of Chicano Murals

The Chicano/a Movement, influenced by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, grew out of alliances between farmworkers struggling to unionize in California and Texas, landowners fighting to retain land in New Mexico, urban working classes in the Southwe st and the Midwest, and student activists across the nation demanding better representation in school curriculum and adequate education.

As the student movement grew, art, newspapers, and magazines with art work flourished. Activism emphasized poster-making and mural painting to disseminate information and to communicate demands to the masses, literate and non-literate. Activist student o rganizations and academic departments began getting commissions for murals on campuses. The creation of murals in the barrio (Chicano neighborhood) came about as a direct reaction to the social, economic, and political conditions forced onto the Chicano community.

Chicano/a artists produced art in the streets as an alternative to art in traditional art galleries, which did not attract the larger community and which, at the time, did not exhibit Chicano art. Public murals became popularized because they were access ible and belonged to everyone in the community. Mural art in the Chicano community quickly became a way to capture a people's history and visually represent people's struggles for better futures. Heavily influenced by the Black Power Movement, Chicano mu ralism sought to demonstrate pride, cultivate an awareness of cultural identity, and empower the community. A young person walking down his/her neighborhood street was able to "read" a mural, taking away from it knowledge of his/her culture, history, and community struggles.