Celebratory Yet Unsettling: Studies on Early 1970s Chicano Student Murals in UCLA and UH

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2021-05

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Abstract

This thesis describes the documentation of two historic murals that are exceptional in their relationships to the rising of the Chicano consciousness insofar as their stories will become an integral part of the historical record. Based on the presumption that both murals compared in this study are works of art, this thesis proposes to elevate the art historical value of Chicano History (UCLA-CSRC, 1970) and The Chicano Student Mural (UH, 1973), legitimizing their condition as historical monuments of cultural heritage that must be displayed, protected and conserved. As works of art, both murals are ideal for studies in early Chicano visual expressions of resistance via form and content during the first phase of the Chicano community mural movement from 1965 to 1974. Also, each mural is a visual record of their populations and by proxy each are deposits of the rising of the Chicano consciousness at each public institution.

This thesis argues that both murals function as symbolic monuments that merit conservation and proper display. The people who influenced their making reflected their own auto-determination by indicting the systems and institutions oppressing them through strategies of direct action, civil disobedience, community organizing and participation in a civic consciousness. These social movements brought about social change in the political, legal and—the focus of this thesis—the educational system. Furthermore, the material and visual form of the murals are embedded with the struggles and strategies for representation and re-signifying of public spaces at the University of California in Los Angeles, and at the University of Houston in Texas by reclaiming of the newly occupied spaces by the rising of the Chicano consciousness.

Using both field and archival research, this thesis is the first historical undertaking of examining materials related to the murals to explicate the planning and making of two regionally-specific and historical murals. Documentation about the planning and making of the murals is scarce and difficult to access. Before this research project, knowledge of the making of these artworks existed only in the memories of a few whose testimonies have been recorded in oral interviews conducted by the author. Digital humanities is a possible way of democratizing this information and empowering our communities and their youth.

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Early Chicano Student Historic Murals, University of California Los Angeles, Chicano Studies Research Center, University of Houston, Center for Mexican American Studies, Eduardo Carrillo, Sergio Hernandez, Ramses Noriega, Saul Solache, Leopoldo Tanguma, Mario Gonzales, Ruben Reyna

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