Juana Alicia’s Narratives for the Centro Chicano Mural Project

2005 SANARTE: DIVERSITY’S PATHWAY Suite of four murals and the double helix and cementatious tile walkway, Juana Alicia ©2005. 1000 square feet of tile mosaic mural at UCSF Medical Center, 400 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco.


In 2007, Stanford’s Centro Chicano wrote me, offering a new commission for the Centro. A mural I had created with the Yo Puedo Program in the mid-eighties had been inadvertently destroyed during renovation, and the Centro requested that I create a new work of art in it’s place. After touring the site, I made several proposals for both exterior and interior walls. I first proposed an exterior, ceramic bas relief work similar to the works I had recently created for UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco and in Mexico at the UTM.

GEMELOS, mural in cast cement and steel, Juana Alicia and Tirso F. Gonzalez Araiza © 2007, Universidad Tecnológica Metropolitana/ UTM (Metropolitan Technical University), Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico.

PRELIMINARY SKETCH FOR CENTRO CHICANO: Proposal for ceramic relief for exterior archway, Juana Alicia ©2008.

The proposal for the exterior wall was rejected by the powers that be, and we began to consider an interior work. After much consultation with university officials, the Centro decided to continue with a series of interior murals on canvas, be seamlessly installed and intended to be long-term, possibly permanent installations. I submitted a series of preliminary sketches, and we moved forward to finalize a contract based on those drawings.PRELIMINARY SKETCH FOR CENTRO CHICANO: Proposal for interior walls and ceiling, Juana Alicia ©2008.

I have now begun the process of creating the new murals for the Centro Chicano. I will be creating murals on canvas to be installed on four walls of the Centro’s entryway and stairwell: two friezes, a ceiling and a small vertical wall next to the office. The preliminary drawings for the pieces are also pictured here. The theme of the murals will be the legacy of Latin American/Indigenous literature. The pencas of the giant nopal will have scenes of our histories as Latino peoples, and quotes from literature from throughout the Latina/Chicano/Indigenous/African/multiethnic Americas. The working title for this piece is “Ojas de nuestro legado/Pages from Our Legacies”, a play on the words pages of a book and the ojas or pencas del nopal. (See the Gallery page for images of these preliminary drawings.)

During the past two academic years, I worked with Centro Director Frances Morales and graduate student Doris Madrigal Texcallini to organize meetings with students and to distribute a survey regarding the content of the mural, and there have been many great responses. I am in the process of compiling all of the material, and reading a broad swath of the literature as part of my own research.  I have enjoyed and been inspired both by reading students’ responses and meeting in person on two occasions with Centro students, staff and alumni. Of particular poignance have been the calls for representing diversity of our Latino/Indigena/multiethnic experiences. The range of authors and artists is suggested is wonderful, including both traditional and non-traditional takes on identity.


My concept for the suite of murals for the Centro Chicano de Estanfor is inspired by the history and literature of multiethnic latinoamerica, from the ancient  stories of the Popol Vuh to  modern Xican@ poetry. Originally, I had thought I would include the actual texts and quotes in caligraphy, but ultimately opted for pure visual narratve and symbol.  The cactus bloomed into an organism with its own voice, shaking off any further elaborations. The Mayan scribe had ideas of her own to pen onto the unfolding codex: creation myths, stories of conquest and survival, from the various centuries that she has survived, a witness to ourstory. She begins with the blooming tree, bearing the strange fruit of her lover Xbalanque’s head. I am currently nearly finished with the first two large panels: the nopal cactus and the Mayan scribe. Please check out Edgardo Cervano Soto’s video time lapse of the painting included on this site.

Next, the story continues onto the  codex panels in the form of friezes at either end of the staircase. I am just now beginning these two sections of the suite of images. They are the scribe’s story, continued. The voice of Eduardo Galeano is the narrative playing in my head, threading through her stylus.  Here she records the burning of her libraries, the slavery of her indigenous and African brothers and sisters, the slave ships landing, the trials of the Malinche y Llorona, the triumphs of Bolivar, el Che, Sandino, Fidel Castro, Emma Tenayuca, Dolores Huerta. Her inspirations are cervantes, Sor Juana, Violeta Parra, Jorge Luis Borges, Rosario Castellamos, Sandra Cisneros, Juan Felipe Herrera, Junot Diaz, Julia Alvarez and many others. My plan is make the panels in a sculptural form, the folding surfaces extending a couple of inches from the wall’s surface. Look for the upcoming sketches for the panel in the Gallery section of this site…



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4 responses to “Juana Alicia’s Narratives for the Centro Chicano Mural Project

  1. vickyrobledo

    Excited, excited to have Stanford be honored with the wonderful, beautiful talents of JuanaAlicia. I can not wait to feast my eyes on the history she shall compile via all her research of this incredible area and tranform on to canvas… I’m their to document!
    Vicky Robledo

  2. Daniel

    Juana Alicia,
    I’m excited that my next visit to the campus I will get to see another mural by you. Stanford is incredibly fortunate to have your work on its walls. I still remember the mural we did at Casa Zapata–one of the highlights of my time on campus. Looking forward to keeping up with the progress.

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