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'La Alma', by Emanuel Martinez was completed in Denver in 1978, is now in danger of being erased. Photo: Chicano/a/z Murals of Colorado Project.
'La Alma', by Emanuel Martinez was completed in Denver in 1978, is now in danger of being erased. Photo: Chicano/a/z Murals of Colorado Project.

Chicano murals named on list of most endangered historic sites

In Colorado, Chicano murals have been listed as some of the most endangered historic sites.

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In the U.S., Chicano/a/x murals appear across the nation, such as in San Diego’s Chicano Park

The subculture, often referred to as a subset of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s-70s, aimed to engage Latino neighborhoods and prompt residents to create their own large-scale murals.

These murals reflected their lived experiences and cultures from many different perspectives.

The movement often reflected arts culture, art history, and political activism concerning prejudice, violence, systemic racism, forced migration, or loss/theft of land.

Now in Colorado, Chicano murals displayed throughout Denver and the state have been assessed for their risk of endangerment. 

Appearing on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2022 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, the mural's risk for endangerment has become exceedingly high.

With the inclusion of the Chicano artwork, this is the first time murals of any kind have appeared on the National Trust’s list.

There are believed to be over 40 Chicano murals across Colorado (the exact number is unknown). These murals are historic sites, but are endangered by some key factors.

As the cultural giants of the Chicano Movement age or pass away, future artists will face difficulties in restoring these murals.

Without the guiding hands of original artists, these murals could disappear naturally when withered by Colorado’s weather. 

Furthermore, with many Chicano murals stationed in gentrified or gentrifying neighborhoods, community disinterest and lacking legal protection contribute greatly to their endangerment.

Some Chicano murals have already been painted over. The Chicano/a/x Murals of Colorado Project (CMCP) is now seeking support in preserving murals statewide.

Lucha Martinez de Luna, the director of CMCP, says many of the murals have been replaced with blank canvases.

“They’ve been whitewashed. A mural — a lot of times — is just painted over white, and nothing replaces it,” said Martinez de Luna in conversation with ABC7.

Moving forward in the preservation of this art and its history, five murals in Colorado have been selected to be preserved to represent the history of the state’s Chicano Movement.

These five locations include murals in Denver, Pueblo, and the San Luis Valley. Murals from Alicia Cardenas and Emanuel Martinez are included.

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