As I was perusing the online catalog this week with Hispanic Heritage Month in mind, a number of photographs of murals stood out to me. The mural tradition has long been strong in Hispanic communities in the United States, perhaps most notably as a part of the Chicano art movement of the 1960s and 1970s. These murals are mostly concentrated in the Southwest, but span the United States.
The mural below in Buffalo, New York was designed by Philadelphia public artist Betsy Casañas.
Casañas explained in an interview hosted by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery why the mural depicts three women (two shown in the image) of African, Indigenous and Spanish descent: “… when you’re working in these spaces it’s really important for the people to see a reflection of themselves in the work around them.” Photographer Carol M. Highsmith captured the mural as part of her work documenting landscapes and the built environment throughout the United States.
Some murals honor community leaders. Labor and civil rights activist César Chávez is featured in a mural by Melchor Ramirez, seen below in Tucson’s Cesar Chavez Park. The mural draws a direct line drawn between the labor organizer and an ancient Indigenous past, depicting Chávez in the style of an Aztec deity, much like Tonan, seated next to him.
Photographer Camilo J. Vergara captured a number of murals by Chicano artist Manuel G. Cruz that depict historical as well as imagined scenes highlighting the Indigenous and Hispanic roots of the Southwestern United States and Mexico. In the Los Angeles mural below, Cruz shows a woman constructing a Mayan calendar.
The scene in another mural by Cruz below shows Miguel Hidalgo y Castilla leading a charge in the Mexican War of Independence from Spanish rule. A church is prominent in the background, along with an image of the Virgen de Guadalupe.
Hispanic Heritage Month provides an opportunity to look at how the collections of the Prints & Photographs Division reflect the contributions of Hispanic individuals and communities to the United States. I am grateful that photographers are documenting important local art, sharing a piece of America’s Hispanic heritage and enabling the Library of Congress to provide these images to researchers across the country and the world.
- Explore resources to help celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- See more photographs by Camilo J. Vergara of murals by Manuel G. Cruz. Read this essay by Vergara about Cruz’s work as an artist.
- Peruse more murals photographed by Carol M. Highsmith.
- View photographs of murals in the Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress.
- Watch this interview of Betsy Casañas, hosted by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, about the mural she created in Buffalo.