On October 9, 1932, renowned Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros stood on Olvera Street before celebrities, fellow artists and government officials to unveil the 18 by 80 foot mural he had been commissioned to paint on a building’s second story. The mural, named América Tropical, turned out to contain an unexpected and controversial image: at the center of its depiction of Mayan temples overrun by vegetation was an indigenous Mexican bound to a cross, a menacing American eagle hovering overhead. To one side, stood Peruvian and Mexican campesinos armed and ready to shoot the eagle in order to defend their homelands. The mural’s obvious critique of American Imperialism did not please city officials and within a year of its scandalous unveiling the contents had been whitewashed and covered up, which is how they remained for the next 80 years.
Yesterday, the mural was once again opened for public viewing after a nearly $10 million restoration project. Hundreds gathered at Olvera Street in a building that formerly housed a churro vendor to see the mural widely regarded as the progenitor of the muralist movements that Los Angeles is well known for. Eighty years to the day after its first unveiling, the building has been converted and revamped into what is now called the América Tropical Interpretive Center where people can learn more about Siqueiros’ story and about the history of the polemic and defiant imagery in the mural.
Remezcla was on the scene yesterday to check out the unveiling:
Among the diverse crowd that turned out to see this important part of Los Angeles art history was Rage Against The Machine’s lead singer, Zack de La Rocha as well as René “Residente” of Calle 13: