Barrio Mural

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Some people consider it to be one of Tucson’s most interesting murals. See what makes this neighborhood work of art unique.

Jose Cardenas:
Finally, people call it one of Tucson's most interesting murals. Here's what makes this work of art unique.

Luis Carrion:
You might miss it if you happen to blink. This mural located off 29th street east of Fourth Avenue is worth a second look.

Alex Garza:
From the '40s and '50s, it still exists but not as much as before. In the slang of the neighborhoods, it means Tucson.

Luis Carrion:
It's known as the tattoo mural, and Alex points out that the images are intended to reflect the identity of the residents of this south Tucson neighborhood.

Alex Garza:
We are in Tucson. This mural was meant to honor everything that happens in south Tucson. And so we thought it was appropriate to put it in here.

Luis Carrion:
The body art that's depicted in this mural is rich in coated -- coded meaning and creates a multilayered representation of the neighborhood that is based on Mexican-American and chicano tattoo traditions.

Maribel Alvarez:
You begin to see tattoo as a way of a mechanism of remembrance, a mechanism of filling some gaps, of affection. And when it enters into popular culture in the Mexican-American community, there is a sense that it begins to also identify the sense of belonging. Here we are a community. We are a group that supports each other.

Luis Carrion:
This doctor works with the southwest research center the here at the University of Arizona. For her, the mural represents a unique convergence of modes of expression.

Maribel Alvarez:
Someone had an interesting idea of here's markings of culture on the body, and here are the markings of culture on the body on the streets, on the -- so this double folding of the message of messaging and meaning through signs. One of the things that happens with murals and with tattoos is that they represent codes, and the codes can be obscured sometimes from the external observer, and only a certain in group recognize what's the meaning is. Or they can be very popular, which becomes accessible to anybody who just looks at them. And in this mural in particular I was intrigued by the combination of the two.

Luis Carrion:
It's intriguing to contemplate the multiple meanings hidden in this mural, and for the producer of the mural as part of the development program to process the design and installing the mural was just as intriguing.

Alex Garza:
While we have roughly 6,000 square feet of arch space, we have Kilns.

Luis Carrion:
This is where the mural was created. It's the result of many discussions surrounding the concept for the mural, and long hours working on the design process.

Alex Garza:
It's a youth development program, an educational program, and the goal is to bring students in who are out of school, dropped out, and they're not in school, and to reintroduce them into the educational system and help them get a G.E.D. So they attain a G.E.D. while here.

Luis Carrion:
He points out they worked on this project come from all walks of life. And the conversations that came about during the creation of the art led to many revelations for the students.

Alex Garza:
We tap into everything. Not every day is perfect. We have a lot of people working here, a lot of students. Staff with different personalities. But we tap into everything. If you're angry that day, we'll take that. Anger? Whatever. If it's a little bit of an emotional day, we'll tap into that emotion. We just take the makeup of the group we have that day, including the instructors, and work with what we have.

Luis Carrion:
Working with what you have, in this case, has resulted in this mural. It's a representation of the community and the body art that has served as an important form of self expression for many of the residents.

Alex Garza:
Personal adornment on the body is just a part of the way the people in the barrio adorn their environment. They're not only adorning their bodies, but their homes, their cars. Adornment is a way of paying homage to everything that happens in every day life around the community.

Luis Carrion:
This homage to the community is easy to miss if you're driving by, and it's simple in its design and color palette. Yet it's complex in its layers of meaning and provides an enduring marker for the make yum of this community.

Maribel Alvarez:
It is such a visible artifact. When people pass by, they're going to recognize that particular location through those symbolism and through those signs. So it becomes an interesting conversation in a way. A conversation that maybe only happens through a couple of seconds. You think, oh, that's interesting, as you drive by.

Jose Cardenas:
That's our show for this Thursday night. I'm Jose Cardenas. From everyone here at "Horizonte," have a good evening.

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