Immaculate Immigrant 9
Virgin of Guadalupe



Virgin Mary Guadalupe Lalo Garcia

The presence of the Virgin's image can also be one of the greatest compliments possible. With the death of Bert Corona, January 15, 2001, among the highest tributes to his 60 years of human rights activism was a procession entering into St. Vincent's Roman Catholic Church for a Requiem Mass, led by the Virgin of Guadalupe's standard. Mr. Corona, a Protestant, fought for Mexican and Latino immigrants and all workers of the United States. He founded Hermandad Mexicana Nacional in Los Angeles whose membership grew to over 80,000 families with chapters in California, New York, Illinois, and Washington, DC. Eventually, Corona's efforts contributed to the Amnesty provision in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

Northwest of downtown Los Angeles, young people again honored Chávez and the farmworkers, publicly, in the city of San Fernando. San Fernando has the unique distinction of being the first city in the nation to designate March 31st a legal holiday in memory of their hero. At first, some members of the community wanted to rename Kalisher St. "César Chávez," but the city council voted against the change. However, high school students persisted in commemorating Chávez. These young community leaders were members of the San Fernando/Sylmar Youth League. Ronnie Campa, one of those leaders, recommended a mural, and the youth league contacted artist Lalo García. He suggested a mural about "the life of César." Teenagers assisted in the project.

The mural's timeline begins with the fledgling farmworkers' movement (UFW) depicted in scenes of their struggle. Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the movement, is marching with Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, and young and older activists. Picket signs state their high-spirited consciousness: "Sí se puede." (Yes, it can be done.) The words "Non-Violence" crown the UFW's renowned logo, the black eagle. Below their anthem, De Colores, the story of their struggle develops: the stoop labor; the sheriff beating demonstrators; the deadly pesticides permeating the vegetables, fruits, and the people who harvest them. An invisible farmworker is holding a crate of vegetables. Lalo García underscored that, He represents the struggle out of the fields and into the supermarkets. . . . The farmworker is telling us, 'pick the best fruits, I pick the best vegetables, I give you my best, and all I ask of you is to give me a little bit of your support. I feed your family; you feed mine.'

García left the farmworker invisible because we ignore him.

The overriding theme of the mural is César Chávez's character: his valiant belief in non-violence; his advocacy for human rights; his concern for social and economic justice; and his triumphant faith in the Virgin of Guadalupe's presence in his movement. It was also well known among the farmworkers that Chávez was greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence and by St. Francis of Assisi. Garcia described the mural and the two men and the Virgin supporting César Chávez during his fasts. García affirmed, "Without Gandhi, St. Francis of Assisi, and the Virgin, he just couldn't have done it . . . You have to have faith in order to go through something like this."

Lalo García firmly believes that Chávez's "strongest individual commitment" to the farmworkers' movement was his fasting.

Next to the Virgin, Chávez is holding the Bill of Rights for the Farmworker. "That was something that he accomplished in his lifetime, very well," said García, "but a movement of this magnitude cannot be accomplished in one lifetime." García depicts Chávez holding on to two young adults, passing on his spiritual energy for the continuing struggle ahead: for political and economic power; an end to discrimination; a secure education; citizenship; voter registration and health programs. The young person's picket sign affirms "La Causa shall continue." At the completion of "The Life of César," 17-year old Roger Ponce commented, "Instead of going out there and tagging walls, we took this plain old white wall and now it is full of soul." ("San Fernando Wall Painting Inspires Youths." Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1995)

Lalo García's personal artwork expresses his tremendous love and pride in his Mexican heritage and culture. Every painting reflects the customs and people of his country of origin. And every painting includes an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, unobtrusively yet integrally. García passionately regards the Virgin of Guadalupe as the highest expression of his Mexicanness. "She was the image that brought the Aztecs, who were dying at the time [of the Conquest], back to life."

Lalo García and his parents were born in a little pueblo, "La Cieneguita" (Little Swamp) in Michoacan, Mexico. It is still possible to hear little children in the plaza speaking Tarascan. Although he keeps the memory of his heritage alive, teaching through art and dance, he values Los Angeles greatly. "The Virgin is important for Los Angeles and the whole world because of what she has done in the Americas. [Her image] is a very true example of what an image can do [for a] people." On a very personal level, Lalo García believes the Virgin's presence in his life has empowered his very being.

Virgin Mary Guadalupe La Virgencita Virgin Mary Guadalupe


I, Meg Garduño, author of this website, have personally seen every image on this site, however, many have been destroyed since I began my research in the 1990s. Murals have been created in north, south, west, and east Los Angeles. But the stories about Guadalupe in my life were a gift from my familia, stories that I never heard from anybody else as I was growing up in a non-Mexican neighborhood on Adams and Main Street.

The first immigrants that I ever met were my parents, Marina and Fernando. I didn't think of them as immigrants, just Mom and Dad. My father came to this country without knowing English, but he learned, and he put himself through medical school. Mom also came from Mexico without the benefit of speaking English, and she also learned to speak it. However, Mom had to drop out of school in order to help support her family. When Marina and Fernando met in East Los Angeles, Dad was already a doctor and Mom was working in the garment district. After they married - together - they were able to provide a home for 25 cousins, coming and going, some of them staying.

Virgin Mary Guadalupe Marina and FernandoMarina and Fernando's loyalty to this country personifies nobility, and belies the ordinary concept of "immigrants." They gave and shared everything they had to help others. Marina and Fernando typify the thousands of Mexican men and women of urban and rural Southern California of yesterday and today, who carry Our Lady of Guadalupe in their hearts and minds.

The Los Angeles phenomenon - the unstoppable fascination with the Virgin of Guadalupe in art and political activism - will also continue. Every time a mural is created, it is an affirmation of the importance of culture and tradition. It also acknowledges that our ancestors' stories continue to nurture our beings.

Every time a mural is demolished, a new one is created, as sure as flowers continue to blossom in the California desert. Guadalupe is a heralded hero, and in the City of Angels named after the Mother of God, the Virgin of Guadalupe represents an irrepressible Los Angeles Mexican immigrant legacy.

Interviews:

Abelar, Juan, South Central, California, April 4, 1997.
Astorga, Pedro, Los Angeles, Califronia, March 5, 2000.
Baca, Judith F., Venice, California, November 1, 1994.
Bornier, Wilbert O'Neil, South Central, California, March 22, 1997.
Cedillo, Jorge, Florence, California, May 15, 1996, May 22, 1996, May 29, 1996, June 5,1996.
Cuadros, Maricela, Alhambra, California, July 18,1998.
Esparza, Roberto, El Sereno, California, April 15,1997.
García, Lalo, San Fernando, California, August 13, 1999, March 25, 2000, April 6, 2000.
Garduño, Marina V., Tustin, California, October 19, 1997, January 4, 1998.
Garduño, Raul F., Tustin, California, October 19, 1997.
Geris, Mary, Los Angeles, California, May 13, 1996.
Geris, Yusef, Los Angeles, California, May 13, 1996.
Greenstein, Laura, Anaheim, California, March 1998.
Guerrero, Hortensia, Los Angeles, California, February 2,1993.
Hoyes, Bernard Stanley, Los Angeles, California, April 24, 1997.
Juarez, Manuel, Lincoln Heights, California, July 7,1996.
Keaney, Father Dennis, Folsom, California, February 11,1993.
Loza, Ernesto de la, Los Angeles, California, January 12, 2000.
Leclerc, Gustavo, Venice, California, January 5, 1993, October 1,1994.
Lopez, Elsa, Boyle Heights, California, September 23, 2000.
Márquez, Enrique, Los Angeles, California, May 21, 1996.
Martínez, Julio, Los Angeles, California, November 13, 1999.
Moore, Reverend J. D., Los Angeles, California, April 1, 1997.
Muñoz, Rosalio, Lincoln Heights, California, January 14,2000.
Murray, Reverend Cecil L., Los Angeles, California, April 1, 1997.
Quezada, Peter, El Sereno, California, December14, 2002.
Rodriguez, George, Los Angeles, California, March 12, 1994.
Seagrams, Reverend Paulette, Los Angeles, California, April 1, 1997.
Terrill, Joey, Alhambra, California, June 16, 1993.
Yepes, George, Boyle Heights, California, August 28,1993, February 19, 1994.

Continue to Section 10