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Random-Ass Chicano/Sports Mural ~ Compton

8:31 AM PDT on April 16, 2007


On the way to an assignment in Compton, I drove by this random-ass mural on the side of a corner store or restaurant. I didn't notice exactly what kind of business establishment this was because I was too busy trying to discern the overriding theme in this particularly confusing work of public art. Yes, it had a few elements that are almost de rigueur icons of Chicano artwork: Cesar Chavez and the UFW Flag, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the Mexican coat of arms with the eagle with the rattlesnake in its beak and talons. But the rest were various sport personalities, some of whom I recognized and some of whom I didn't.

OK, I recognized Jordan from the dunking pose and Shaq from the number on the jersey; the muralist ("F. Manzo 323 717-4365") affirmed my conjecture by leaving various clues -- in this case, writing the athletes' names on their shorts. There was at least one red herring, though I'd have to conclude that "D'Olla" was a typo for "De la Hoya", one of our local boys whom Daniel Hernandez recently wrote into the "who's who" of Mexican American Princes ("MAPs").

Not following soccer as closely as I'd like, I had to do a little research to find out just who the three featured futbolistas were:


Oswaldo Sánchez is the goalkeeper for the Mexican national team, and currently plays for the Mexican team Santos, although he has played for Atlas, América, and Chivas in the past.


Cuauhtémoc Blanco is a striker who plays on the Mexican national team and for América, but who is coming to MLS to play for the Chicago Fire soon. I found this sick video on YouTube of his top ten all-time goals:


Ramón Morales is a midfielder for the Mexican national team and is currently captain of Chivas. Note that Jordan's tongue is uncharacteristically -- if not mercifully -- demure in this likeness.


So, to summarize, we have the UFW, Catholic, and Mexican icons, the Mexican and American Flags, three Mexican soccer players, two African-American basketball players, and one Mexican-American boxer. After all, if I really wanted to know how and why the artist decided to throw all of these things together, I could call F. Manzo myself and ask him. It could be that the muralist and/or commissioning shop-keeper wanted to include some African-American sports figures as a gesture of goodwill and inclusion in a neighborhood that brought us NWA and the Williams sisters, but whose demographics have changed significantly in recent years. But, still, why Jordan, and why Shaq? And why so glaringly omit Jordan's tongue?

In the end, I decided to be content to assume that, as with ex-voto and retablo paintings and other genres of folk art, the choice of imagery and the story they tell can be individualized and very personal. If anything, this mural serves to reinforce my appreciation of the ambiguity and bizarre juxtapositions that characterize the streets of LA in general and the Taco Lifestyle in particular. liltaco.bmp

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