By Patrick Cochran/ Staff Writer
“See that guy with the shiny white teeth, thats me!” Juan Gonzalez said when gazing upon his former self.
Gonzalez, the head of the journalism program at City College and one of the founding members of the bilingual newspaper El Tecolote, was honored recently with a mural. Located on the side of Philz Coffee at 24th and Folsom in the Mission District, Gonzalez was one of the people featured in the mural. Created by Precita Eyes Muralists Association and Center, the artwork pays homage to people, places, and events that have had significant impact on the local community.
“With this mural we wanted a tribute to the Mission”, said Fred Alvarado, an artist with Precita Eyes, “Honor some of the heroes and organizations that have been around for a long time.”
The mural not only features the original staff of El Tecolote from 1970, but other important Mission figures like educator Rita Alviar and artist Alfonso Texidor.
The mural features organizations and businesses that had a vital impact on the community, like Mission Skateboard, but also depicts major events, like the protest that ensued after the shooting of Alex Nieto by San Francisco Police, a City College student.
The phrase, “The Cosmic Race” an english translation of “La Raza” displays prominently on the mural. La Raza is the idea that race and nationality can be transcended for the good of humanity.
The idea originated from the 1920’s Mexican intellectual Jose Vasconcelos and was inspired by the fact that Mexicans have a mixed origins of European, Native American, and African blood. Since then, La Raza has been used to indicate people from not only Mexico, but all of Latin America.
It was a lively event, and featured a traditional Mexican spiritual dance that wowed the crowd with a “danza”, which is a traditional Mexican spiritual dance. Moving in synchronized harmony, and burning incense, the dance was beautiful and had a very spiritual feel to it.
San Francisco supervisor David Campos was at the event, and spoke highly of the people featured in mural. “This is great for the Mission, honoring the people who helped make this community,” Campos said.
Campos was especially fond of Rita Alviar. “We need more people like her in the community,” said Campos, “She ran after-school programs for 40 years. She is amazing.”
El Tecolote holds it’s place in the upper left corner of the mural. Gonzalez was elated to see himself honored in the neighborhood he has dedicated so much time to covering.
“When I first joined El Tecolote, I said five years and then I’ll do something different. But that five years turned in 45 and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Gonzalez said.
The artwork depicts Gonzalez when he was 22 years old and while much of his physical appearance has changed, two things remain constant: he still has the pearly white teeth and, “I still have that jacket I am wearing in (the) mural; it’s a good jacket,” Gonzales said.
Precita Eyes hopes the mural stays up for a long into the future.
“It shows the roots of the Mission which is important for people to see,” Alvarado said. “We want people to see it and be told a story.”
In a neighborhood undergoing rapid change, the mural is a living testament to the people who form the heart of the Mission.
“To us murals are alive,” Alvarado said.
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