Community members at the first Eastside Mural Ride in 2015
Los Angeles was once known as the mural capital of the world. For decades, artists from all over the world have painted walls all over the city depicting historical events, political figures, religious imagery, and everything else in between. Communities like Boyle Heights have a long history of artists painting murals that reflect the cultural values and traditions of a majority immigrant and Latinx community.
In 2015, People for Mobility Justice hosted the first Eastside Mural ride after being in- spired by community members who organized a mural ride in North East L.A. PMJ has continued to organize this ride over the years with the intention of bringing the community together to learn about the murals, their history, and their place in the community.
While this ride is being organized by PMJ and funded by the Metro Best Program, we encourage all individuals who will be going on this self-guided tour to reflect on how the impact of gentrification and displacement have changed the community. Support local vendors, be respectful of the community, and the spaces you will be visiting. This is not a tour for housing speculation, disrespect, and cultural appropriation. Safe riding!
Mariachi Plaza is a cultural hub in the Boyle Heights community. There are several murals to see here, but we cannot talk about this space without first providing a bit of history and context. A donut shop on the corner of First and Boyle became an informal gathering location for local mariachi musicians looking to be hired. While the area has physically changed over the years and the construction of the Goldline (L Line) changed the dynamics of how the musicians would get work, it wasn’t until 2009 when the line opened that they were able to come back and find stability.
The kiosk/bandstand at the center of the plaza was a gift from the state of Jalisco, the birthplace of mariachi music. Renowned stone artisan, Juan Pablo Salas was commissioned to create it. Once the project was finished, it was shipped to Boyle Heights where Juan and his team put it together in 1998. The kiosk has been the site of numerous community events, music videos, movies, and tv shows over the years.
The train station itself also reflects elements of mariachi music into its design. Specifically, the awning on both sides of the station designed to look like Folklorico dress and the top of the station was designed to look like a guitar bridge. The sculptures at the station were created by Alejandro de la Loza.
Mariachi Plaza Murals
Since the early 90s, the murals of Juan Solis have reflected the mariachi culture that the plaza is known for. The murals have seen better days since they were first painted, but the elements, decaying walls, and graffiti have taken their toll. Juan has worked to restore his murals, but funding is rare and it rarely covers all the expenses that come with restoration and protection. Juan is still active in his community, hosting work- shops and continuing to paint more murals. You can follow him on Instagram at @JuanSolisArte.
El Corrido de Ricardo Valdez by Juan Solis - 1994
Photos of the mural circa 1994 by Robin Dunitz via the USC Digital Library
La Virgen de Los Mariachis – 1995 Restored in 2015 Photo by Steve Saldivar for the L.A. Times
Hecho a Mano by Sonia Romero - 2020 (Inside train station).
Built-in 1968, El Mercado de Los Angeles has been a cultural hub for the community since the day it opened. As the demographics of Boyle Heights changed over the years, so did the stalls and vendors that catered to them, eventually becoming a reflection of the majority immigrant and Latinx community that lives in the neigh- borhood today. For those of us born after that transition, we have come to know the space as El Mercadito or little market. A common experience shared by those who grew up going there was visiting the space on a Sunday afternoon, usually after at- tending church. You would get something to eat, see musicians perform at the restau- rant on the 3rd floor, and browse the numerous stalls on the 1st and 2nd floor. To this day, El Mercadito has changed very little despite the community around it changing dramatically due to gentrification.
El Mercadito Murals
Quetzalcoatl (wraps around the building) “feathered serpent” or “plumed serpent” is the Nahuatl name for the Feathered-Serpent deity of ancient Mesoamerican culture.
The murals that adorn the walls of El Mercadito were all designed, painted, and in- stalled by Jose Luis Gonzalez of the Goez Art Studios and Gallery. Jose and the studio have a rich and deep history in the Eastside and El Mercadito is one of the few loca- tions where his art still lives. Commissioned at various times throughout the 80s and 90s, the murals are comprised of painted tiles. The murals feature Mayan imagery such as temples, people, and gods. This kind of imagery is reminder of the ancestors before colonization in 1519.
All murals by Jose Luis Gonzalez of the Goez Art Studios and Gallery Ofrenda Maya II - 1990
Tlaloc – Aztec Rain God – 1991
Facing Eastside Sun - 1990
The Wall the Signs, Speaks, and Shouts - 2001
Artist: Paul Botello, Gerardo Herrera, Adalberto Ortiz, Gustave Sanchez
On August 29th, 1970, thousands of Chicano/a (Chicanx) activists and community members gathered for the National Chicano Moratorium to protest the Viet-Nam war. Like other civil rights groups fighting for liberation at the time, the U.S. government and the F.B.I. actively spied on, terrorized, and infiltrated these groups in order to try and destroy the movements.
The march started out peacefully, but it ended in violence and in death after the Sheriffs’ department began violently assaulting and arresting protesters. Hundreds were arrested and others lost their lives to police violence. This included L.A. Times reporter, Ruben Salazar, whom the park was named after on September 17th, 1970. The park was known as Laguna Park before the change. In 2020, the community celebrated
the 50th anniversary of the moratorium, with the L.A. Times launching a retrospective look at the history of the march, the impact it had, and where it stands today.
50th Anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium
Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium, the artist collective 3B painted this mural on Whittier Boulevard, down the street from where journalist Ruben Salzar was murdered by the sheriff’s department. The mural connects the legacy of past movements to the work being done today by a new generation of activist. You can follow 3B on Instagram at @3bcollective.
East L.A. Civic Center
Dreams of Past, Present, Future - 1996
Artist: José Antonio Aguirre, Eva Cristina Pérez and Alfredo Calderon
The East L.A. Civic center provides various services to the community. The park, lake, and library provide safe spaces for families while the court house, probation offices, and sheriff station highlight the punitive forces of the city. Before a major redesign of the buildings and structures that made up the area where the civic center stands today, it was a training complex used by the police. This all changed in the early 2000s with the building of the Goldline (L line) and the area being transformed into what it’s today.
“In 1996, Martin Flores and the Rogelio Flores Foundation partnered with Self Help Graphics and then First District Supervisor Gloria Molina to sponsor a mural to honor the life of Martin’s brother, Rogelio Flores, who was the victim of a drive-by shooting. Artists José Antonio Aguirre, Eva Cristina Pérez, and Alfredo Calderon led a group of eight high school students through design and execution of this mural. In the finished work, the students’ design shows past events as well as future hopes. The mural, facing Third Street, is made of hand-painted ceramic tile.”
This is the final stop, thank you for joining us! Don’t forget to tag People for Mobility Justice (PMJ) in your pics and use the hashtag #EastsideMuralRide