Section of The Spiral Word: El Codex Estánfor

Section of The Spiral Word: El Codex Estánfor

Juana Alicia

Theory & Practice

MURAL ARTIST CREATES A SPACE FOR STUDENTS TO CELEBRATE THEIR IDENTITIES AS LATIN AMERICANS, AND STUDENT RESPONDS WITH POETRY

By Robin Wander

On Nov. 9, Stanford inaugurated its newest mural The Spiral Word: El Codex Estánfor at El Centro Chicano. The mural was designed and created by Berkeley-based international muralist Juana Alicia. The artist was on hand at the ceremony to give a blessing, talk about her work and officially turn the murals over to the community.

The dazzling mural depicts the legacy of Latin American/indigenous literature. The concept for the suite of four murals for El Centro was inspired by the history and literature of multi-ethnic Latin America, from the ancient stories of the Popol Vuh to modern Xican poetry. California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera named the work.

The Spiral Word: El Codex Estánfor

Juana Alicia

Juana Alicia describes the development of the ideas and imagery as follows:

My inspirations came from diverse sources such as Miguel Cervantes, Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, José Martí, Violeta Parra, Jorge Luis Borges, Rosario Castellanos, Sandra Cisneros, Carlos Fuentes, Juan Felipe Herrera, Junot Díaz, Julia Alvarez, and more than any other author, Eduardo Galeano. His books, The Open Veins of Latin America, and the trilogy Memories of Fire, function as a subtext for the set of four paintings, most especially the codex.

Each of the four painted surfaces [three canvases and one watercolor paper] has it’s own role to play in the story and in the space. This is one of the smallest, most compact and narrative-dense works I have created. The challenge was to create a series of works that altered an institutional-feeling entryway into a sanctuary for our collective narratives as multi-faceted Latinos and original peoples of these continents. I wanted to create a space for students to find beauty and honor for their identities as Latin Americans at Stanford, and to create a place that both narrated our legacies and celebrated our cultural projects.

I wanted the murals to create feelings of safety and pride and stimulate historical consciousness with regard to our evolution as a people. As the students and alumnae requested in my initial meetings with El Centro and Concilio, I sought to represent past, present and future realities for Latin/indigenous students at Stanford.

As a vibrant student center, El Centro Chicano works to support students academically, personally, socially and culturally. It focuses on creating mature, aware and socially responsible individuals who advocate and dialogue for equity and social justice. Within the Chicano and Latino community there is great diversity of backgrounds, aspirations, and sociopolitical views, which adds to the richness of a collective experience. El Centro’s programs provide Stanford students the opportunity to explore Chicano and Latino culture, history and traditions.

“This is not an end to the project, rather, it’s an opportunity to hand over the murals to the community. It is a passing from my hands to theirs. A rite of passage,” said Juana Alicia.

 

La Scribe
by Aracely Mondragon

Ella

escribe nuestras historias
palabras grabadas
en paredes de adobe
en su voz mi gente vive

resiste

como nopal de desierto
armadura morena
brotando fruta de tuna
bebo sus aguas
en su aliento vivo

existo

 

Para Erica
by Aracely Mondragon

Mujer morena
Mexicana de mi corazón
Gentil y resistente flor de selva

En tus pétalos
llevas el saber de las montañas

Eres tu quien conoce la naturaleza

Espíritu que andas por varios mundos

que haz visto los incendios de hombres anglos

Haz oído los llantos de almas ancestrales
arboles derrumbados
pueblos sedientos

Eres tu quien a venido a devolver
lo verde a la vida

Es tu amor el que calienta nuestra tierra
sonrisas, rayos de sol

Tu ser es el río que corre por los cerros
bella y serena

Cultivas todo cuyo tus aguas tocas

Es tu voz la canción que el viento canta
inspirando esperanza en cada entonar

Son tus manos que en paredes inscriben

Historias

A lo que un día fue de adobe
regresas sus memorias

Mujer morena
Mexicana de mi corazón

El mundo es un códice
Y la poeta eres tu

 

Untitled
by Aracely Mondragon

Cuéntame el cuento que nunca escuche

de espíritus verdes

arboles brotando

cuerpos de madera

cuéntame sobre las cuatro direcciones

el porque del sol por las mañanas

y la huida de la luna

Cuéntame de las batallas contra franceses

rostros de vírgenes morenas

en banderas cubiertas en sudor

pañuelos en la frente de una soldadera

cuéntame de las noches  a luz de vela

manos con arrugas intricadas

tejidas cuidadosamente por el tiempo

servilletas de tricolores

cuéntame sobre madrugadas olor de maíz

café de olla y atole de ciruela

espaldas dobladas entre la milpa

y agua tomada desde los brazos del cerro

Damé tus memorias

que a mi me han robado

escribe en mi cuerpo tus palabras

abandonadas en la frontera

Cuéntame un cuento

Mujer

Libremonos por fin

 

Untitled (translation)
by Aracely Mondragon

Tell me that story I never heard

of spirits the color of

trees

sprouting

bodies made of wood

Tell me about

the four directions

the why of the sun

in the mornings

and the fleeing of the moon

Tell me about

those battles against French arms

of Virgenes

brown silhouettes

reflected on sweat drenched flags

handkerchiefs clinging to the forehead

of a Soldadera

Tell me about

those nights by candlelight

soft hands

intricate wrinkles

carefully sewed by the passing of time

napkins made of cloth

Tell me about

dawns that smell like maiz

coffee made with cinnamon

Tell me about

backs bent amidst the cornfield

water drank from the mountain’s hands

Give me your memories

those that have been stolen from me

Engrave on my body your words

abandoned at the border

Woman

Tell me a story

and free us

from this cage of silence

 

 

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