Tucked away in an alleyway on Crown Street there is an unexpected sight — a colorful mural portraying a pyramid of people against a background of a dark eagle.
On Friday afternoon, a dedication to the mural — painted on the wall of La Casa Cultural — was held as a culmination of Semana Chicana, the first annual Chicano cultural awareness week. Students and others came to view the mural, interact with the artists, and share their thoughts.
“It is a permanent symbol of the presence of Chicanos on campus and, specifically, in the house,” said Francisco Ramirez ’02, a chairman of Semana Chicana.
Painted by Maceo Montoya ’02 and Francisco Delgado ART ’02, the mural shows several tiers of society. The bottom level includes portrayals of workers and farmers next to the central figure of Cesar Chavez, the founder of the United Farm Workers Union and representative of the Chicano civil rights movement. The middle level represents education and the arts, and the top level is a depiction of “community,” Montoya said. The eagle on the blue background is also symbolic of the UFW.
“The UFW has come to represent [our people] and their struggle for survival in the U.S.” Montoya said. “In the mural everyone is supporting everyone on top of them, but the top is not success: it is community. We may be at Yale but we must remember our communities.”
Proposed two years ago, the mural was painted over Spring Break. Montoya said the two artists worked every day, sometimes while it was raining or snowing, to complete the painting before both of them graduated this year.
“It is emblematic of the struggle Latino students and faculty have gone through for the last 30 years,” said Stephen Pitti, an assistant professor of history and American studies. “It’s a beautiful and entirely appropriate image.”
Organizers said the mural is also a sign of unity. The building that is now La Casa originally housed the Puerto Rican cultural center. Two years ago the Chicano cultural center moved in from the Asian-American and Native American house next door, forming a united center for Latino students. El Movimiento Estudantil Chicano de Aztlan, or MEChA proposed the new mural as a mark of their coming into the house.
“It is the first real act of us as one house,” said Li Yun Alvarado ’02, an ethnic counselor.
The audience cheered and made a toast to the mural as Delgado smashed a champagne bottle on the wall it was painted on. A series of speeches followed before Alvarado concluded the ceremony by reading a poem.
“It is a New Haven landmark, a legacy for the future that is going to inspire people,” said Ezra Vazquez-D’Amico ’03, the moderator of MEChA.