Latin American History in Living Color

The inauguration of The Spiral Word: El Codex Estánfor, a multi-panel mural by Bay Area artist Juana Alicia, intensified the cultural pride emanating from El Centro Chicano, Stanford’s Chicano/Latino student center.  This richly symbolic opus encapsulates the variegated history of Latin America.  Alicia, who has been involved with the Stanford arts scene since 1984, believes that an artist’s work is always deeply connected to its own social, historical, and cultural context: “I feel that it is my responsibility as an artist to be an activist for social justice, human rights and environmental health, and I see the work of parenting and teaching akin to being an artist. I began working as an artist in my teens, coming of age in the human rights movements that included the United Farm Workers and the protestations against the war in Vietnam.”  In a recent interview with Stanford News, Alicia explained the overall significance of her new mural: “Each of the four painted surfaces [three canvases and one watercolor paper panel] has its own role to play in the story and in the space. This is one of the smallest, most compact and narrative-dense works that 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.”

Bio: Juana Alicia – Painter, educator, and activist who is on faculty at Berkeley City College, where she directs a public art program called True Colors.  Alicia’s large-scale mural celebrating Latin American history, The Spiral Word: El Codex Estánfor, was installed at Stanford’s El Centro Chicano in 2012.

Featured image: section from Juana Alicia’s mural The Spiral Word: El Codex Estánfor, recently installed at Stanford’s El Centro Chicano.  Photograph courtesy of El Centro Chicano