Chicano, Hispanic Culture Celebrated in New San Jose Mural
SAN JOSE — The Chicano and Hispanic community in the city of San Jose received a big present on Saturday with the official unveiling of a mural honoring seven of the city’s “Leyendas de San José” – legends of San Jose – from the first DJ Mexican to the founders of Low Rider Magazine.
The mural, created by three artists who formed the Timeless Art Collective, is a tribute to the Roosevelt Park neighborhood’s Mexican and Spanish roots, as well as a history lesson for the entire city.
“We wanted to bring people together and uplift the low-rider community,” says Steven Martinez, who along with Eduardo Hererra and Ariana Hansen spent about a year researching history, gathering neighborhood suggestions, getting funds and finally to paint the mural. which covers the side of a building on Santa Clara Avenue and 19th Street. “It had a lot of impact. We are muralists trying to create art, but we have also created history.
Saturday’s ceremony included speeches from the families of those honored on the mural and from the Aztec dancers who blessed the mural and the crowd in attendance.
“It’s such an honor,” said Elaine Valenzuela Plata, from Modesto, watching the rendition of her grandfather, Jesus Valenzuela, who broke barriers to produce the first program in Spanish and bring a spark of pride to the within his community.
San Jose Councilman Raul Peralez, who represents District 3 which includes San Jose’s eastern neighborhood, said Chicano culture runs deep, remembering his own days on Santa Clara Avenue.
Chicano and Hispanic culture is a big part of San Jose‘s history, “but it was never celebrated like this,” Peralez said.
The mural depicts seven residents of San Jose who are part of this story. They are:
Jesus Valenzuela, who began his radio career in 1937 in Santa Barbara, before joining the San Jose KSJO in 1948. Nicknamed El Amo del Microfono — the master of the microphone — his radio show Hora Artistica provided the soundtrack- sound for generations and helped energize Mexican artists. .
Ricardo Santa Fe was a mariachi singer, musician and composer who got his start at the El Campanil Theater in Antioch, performing to a predominantly Hispanic audience. His daughter, Angie Ayala, from Los Angeles, said her father tried to get into acting but had to pretend to be Italian.
Luis Valdez, Chicano playwright, screenwriter, actor and director, is best known for “La Bamba” and “Zoot Suit”. He is considered the father of Chicano cinema and theater. While attending San Jose State University, his first play, “The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa,” was performed, and Valdez later joined the United Farm Workers, where he staged a theater improvisation with the help of union actors. The theater led to the formation of El Teatro Campesino, which he co-founded with his brother, Daniel, who is also featured in the mural.
Jose “All Nighter” Martinez, founder of the Low Conspiracy Car Club, celebrated and enhanced low rider culture in San Jose, helping organize and run car shows. He also contributed to Lowrider Magazine, the first magazine ever published for the lowrider community.
Sonny Madrid, founder of Lowrider Magazine, combined his love of trick cars and community activism in a magazine that featured lowrider rights, art, fashion and Chicanos. He also helped make San Jose the cruising capital of Northern California.
Art Rodrigues is the author of “East Side Dreams” and other books that explore his own past and history. Rodrigues struggled with an undiagnosed learning disability, which led to several run-ins with the law. After starting his own business, Rodrigues eventually learned to read and write, producing four must-have books for thousands of young students who saw something for themselves in his stories.
Daniel Valdez is an actor, musician, composer and activist best known for his roles in “La Bamba”, “The China Syndrome” and “Zoot Suit”. His brother is Luis Valdez, also featured in the mural.
There were comments Saturday lamenting the lack of women depicted in the mural, but Dee Barragan, president of the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association, said a mural honoring Chicana women was being discussed inside the park. .