An iconic Chicano mural in Santa Fe painted by Mexican American artists is scheduled for destruction to make way for a new contemporary museum, generating a debate about gentrification and whose culture state and city officials are seeking to preserve.
The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs said last month state officials have determined the “Multi-Cultural” mural whose creation was headed by Gilberto Guzman is “unstable with extensive cracking” and, therefore, beyond repair.
“No treatment is currently possible that can fully address the integrity of either the original image or the artist’s aesthetic intent,” the agency said in a statement Dec. 10. “Many public art programs consider murals to be temporary with a lifespan of approximately 10-20 years.”
But writer Alicia Inez Guzman of Truchas said the destruction of the mural is evidence of the erasure of Mexican American culture in the capital city of New Mexico — the nation’s most Hispanic state. She questioned whether state officials actively engaged with Mexican American activists enough about the mural and what was at stake.
“This is a prime example of gentrification. It’s symbolic of a broader issue here about housing and certain populations getting pushed out,” Guzman said, who is not related to the muralist Gilberto Guzman.
State officials said the mural has been “digitally photographed for future archival purposes.”
The announcement on the mural came are state officials unveiled plans for the New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary. According to the plans, the museum’s design would preserve the “the historic integrity of the surrounding area” in the Santa Fe Railyard District.
“We are very excited about the possibilities this new building offers to exhibit world-class post-war and contemporary art while expanding our ability to present educational programs,” Michelle Gallagher Roberts, acting executive director of the New Mexico Museum of Art, said.
Groundbreaking on the project is scheduled for later this year. It’s unclear when officials will begin destroying the mural.
The mural was created at the end of the Chicano Movement and came as similar murals in Los Angeles and San Diego were created to celebrate Mexican American and Native American culture and history.
Artist Frederico Vigil, a native of Santa Fe, was among the artists who helped create the piece on the side of the Halpin State Archives building.
Russell Contreras is a member of The Associated Press’ race and ethnicity team.