Last week MySanAntonio.com reported that the city's proposed mural of a sleeping Mexican being considered for the revitalization of a historic drive-in has drawn protests and anger by several Latino activists and artists. The issue? The city wants to re-create the Mission Drive-In's original art, which showed Mission San José as well as two men in sombreros sleeping.
“Latinos are not asleep,” said Gabriel Velasquez, a District 3 member of the city's Cultural Arts Board and an organizer of the press conference. “We are mayors of cities; we are doctors, lawyers, astronauts and teachers.”
“We cannot regress by allowing a painting from the old days to show us as less than we really are,” he said.
Felix Padrón, head of the city's Office of Cultural Affairs, characterized the criticisms as part of a misunderstanding of city processes, adding that the finished work will not necessarily include every element of the original marquee.
The marquee mural is a part of a preservation and neighborhood redevelopment project that includes a plaza to be completed this summer. The marquee remains blank for now.
At issue is an Office of Cultural Affairs request for proposals, or RFP, a document that describes the marquee project and lists requirements for potential artists or companies to follow.
"You have got to be kidding me,” prominent San Antonio artist Jesse Trevino said when he was invited to submit a bid to help create the mural. “I have been fighting this all my life by trying my best to portray the positive images of Mexican Americans."
Here is the question we have: why even consider it in the first place? Was the city not thinking that it would get a reaction to all this? Like Velasquez says at the end of the report and we tend to agree:
“Placing a derogatory, stereotypical and demeaning illustration on the cover sheet of an RFP is not only unacceptable, but offensive,” he said. It “depicts a Mexican asleep under his sombrero against the wall of Mission San José.”
When finished, the former outdoor theater will serve as a venue for community and cultural events. The Mission Marquee Outdoor Plaza is expected to be completed this summer and sits adjacent to the Mission Branch Library, a $7.4 million facility that opened last year.
In all, the drive-in's 26 acres are part of a redevelopment plan.
Padrón said his department is “sensitive to the issues being raised” and doesn't believe the offending images will be incorporated into the marquee, “given the concerns of the community.”
“At end of the day,” he said, “we will probably introduce a new mural.”