An enthusiastic gathering of 100 supporters joined artist Judy Baca on Dec. 5 to dedicate her mural La Memoria de Nuestra Tierra (The Memory of Our Land), marking the successful completion of what Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Jackson called “a process of thoughtful struggle.”
The dedication itself did not take place without a struggle: the ceremony was originally to take place outdoors in the form of a posada, or traditional procession, led by musicians. But rain forced the event indoors to the Topping Student Center – where, thanks to contingency planning, the program unrolled with no loss of momentum.
Jackson, in his remarks, paid tribute to the process of negotiation and cooperative effort preceding the dedication that, while marked by controversy, was enriched by mutual give and take.
Abel Amaya, director of El Centro Chicano, recounted the background at the dedication:
“The academic year 1993-94 was a year of student concern expressed through petitions, rallies and educational programming, related to Latino issues on the USC campus,” Amaya said. “La Raza Political Action Committee, along with a confederation of Chicana/Chicano student organizations and individual students, requested that a park be named after César Chávez and that a mural be raised depicting the life and work of this great American.
“In April of 1994, a compromise was reached. University President Sample also announced two Latino arts initiatives: an outdoor memorial to César Chávez, and an indoor mural depicting Latino contributions to the life of Southern California.”
Shortly after the dedication of the mural, final papers were signed commissioning the Chávez memorial (see accompanying story, below).
The Latino Arts Committee, made up of alumni, faculty, students and staff, and chaired by architect Arturo Fribourg, took responsibility for the commissioning and oversight of the works – a process that turned out to take far longer than anticipated. “But I am delighted by the result,” Fribourg said.
For the mural, some 45 proposals were considered before the Venice-based Baca, internationally known for her work on such projects as “The Great Wall of Los Angeles,” received the commission in July 1995.
Anheuser-Busch contributed $10,000 to the project, and the 9-by-23-foot mural was installed in the student center in August.
At the December dedication, others involved in the process – Kristine E. Dillon and David Crandall of student affairs; English professor Teresa McKenna; and students César Lopez, Adriana Chavarin, Ilda Jimenez, Bianca Ambriz and Vivian Hernandez – further described the process of the mural’s creation and the meaning of its images (see “Roadmap to the Mural,” to left).
“A monument is to bring the past into the future – and that is what this mural intends to do,” said Baca. “Our history is everyone’s history. It is part of the whole.”î