One of the places that Reed wanted to share with me while I was visiting San Francisco was the Mission District. He wanted me to experience the street art. So we wandered around the area. Looking at these amazing works on the sides of the buildings. In the heart of the district is an alley where all of the garage doors and fences are painted with murals. The murals in this alley began in 1972 when Mujeres Muralistas a two woman team laid the foundation by creating murals that reflected Latin American culture and raised political points. In the 80’s, the alley took on its present day form when a troupe of mural activists wanted to praise the Indigenous Central American heritage and protest US intervention in Central America. This alley has 27 murals. The murals on this alley both change and stay the same. Some are repaired from the damages of weather while other are new being painted atop the old. The political themes have expanded to cover the concerns of today while still reflecting on Lantinx culture.
I was transfixed by these images. These images brought up memories, movements in my past that meant something to me. I was reminded of being a teenager and learning about what we as a country were doing in Latin America and the people we were harming. I had met people who sought sanctuary in the US and the churches that provided that sanctuary. I remember my first boycott as a college student when I stopped eating grapes in support of the farm workers. I remember the movements I studied in graduate school – of people seeking to change life under oppressive regimes, especially the mother’s of the disappeared who stood up to the government to find their husbands and sons.
What struck me as I started thinking about this art is how it is enduring and yet temporary. Some of the art is repaired but a lot of the art gives way to a new image, a new politics, a new artist. While the colors and vibrancy is the same, the work is different. The needs in the world have changed and yet remained the same. For we still have people seeking sanctuary, great inequality in wealth, farm worker struggle, women still searching for missing husbands and sons, US involvement that isn’t helpful. As I thought of the art, the culture, and the temporary nature of the art this verse from the bible kept repeating “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8). This passage from Isaiah speaks of the fading of people and the constancy of God, a God who in the midst of trouble is there to comfort the people, strengthen the powerless, and renew the weary.