When football fans make their way to Atlanta in the next following days, they’ll be welcome by murals that tell the city’s rich history. Ahead of Super Bowl LIII, WonderRoot – an Atlanta-based arts group – and the Atlanta Super Bowl Committee have teamed up to create 30 murals across the city. Titled Off the Wall, the murals look at the city’s past and present to highlight its civil rights legacy. Yehimi Cambrón is one of the almost dozen artists tapped for the project. The Mexican artist chose to pay tribute to the undocumented community with her mural.
Beneath the Georgia State Station, Cambrón’s mural features five faces. The United States’ flag waves behind them, and monarch butterflies surround them. Those in the mural wear different expressions on their faces, but what they have in common is that they’re all based on real people. Parts of their hair, foreheads, and cheeks are covered with words that came straight from their mouths.
“Some people speak about coming to this country from Mali when they were 1 year old or about their parents giving up their dream of going to middle school in the Philippines in order to make sure that their children would have access to opportunities here in the United States,” Cambrón told GPB News. “There isn’t a one narrative so some people talk about religion, about being Muslim, about identifying as a gay Mexican man and being undocumented on top of that. All those intersections really come together in the words of the murals.”
The location of the mural – near the state capitol – has special significance for Cambrón. As a high school student, she came in third place in an art contest. The Georgia State Capitol even recognized her art, but she ran into some issues when she tried to claim the $50 prize.
“I was turned away because I did not have a Social Security number,” she said. “That realization of what it actually meant that I was undocumented, in a time where I was coming of age and my undocumented status was becoming increasingly dominant, was just a huge slap in the face. Being able to paint the faces of undocumented people in their words and this message of resilience right around the corner from the Capitol is, I think in it of itself, poetic justice.”