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Chicano Murals in Tucson

The contemporary Chicano mural scene seems to have started in Tucson in the mid-1970s as a part of the spreading Chicano movement of the American West and Southwest. Early murals celebrated Chicano cultural identity and such important political victories as the establishment of City-sponsored neighborhood centers in predominately Mexican American neighborhoods. (The term "Chicano," a slang pronunciation of "Mexicano," is taken here to refer to politically active Mexican Americans of the generations that are currently in their fifties and younger.) Many murals are created with community input, often with actual painting tasks being shared by neighborhood youth as well. Although this brief essay focuses on a few professional muralists, Tucson is full of young men and women who can - and do - paint murals.

Tucson's mural scene is incredibly dynamic. Murals appear, are painted over, and then are replaced by others. The Tucson-Pima Arts Council published Guide to Murals in Tucson in 1993. It is 20 pages long, and lists 135 separate murals. It was out-of-date soon after publication. One of the murals in this exhibit no longer exists, another has faded almost beyond recognition since it was painted. But Chicano murals as a genre seem destined to be a part of this particular urban scene for a long time to come.

Watch Arizona Public Media's Las Artes: Barrio Mural "In this segment by producer Luis Carrion, we'll get a close-up look at what some people consider to be one of Tucson's most interesting murals. Heavily coded with symbols, signs, and many small wonders of city and body lore, this out-of-the-ordinary mural merits a closer look."

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