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An Iconographic Roadmap to the Mural

The following is a description of the iconography in Judy Baca’s La Memoria de Nuestra Tierra (The Memory of Our Land), taken from speeches at the mural’s dedication:

The land is the essential framework and focus of the mural. This image of the land is taken from a photograph of the northern part of Los Angeles. Often an image in the work of Judy Baca, the land here stretches into the distance as a source of food for the people. The river changes to a freeway and then returns to its natural state, helping to sustain the land. In this mural, the land has been stripped away, showing in historical stratification the story of itself and the people who dwell on it.

Located as the central image of the mural, the kiva [a ceremonial structure] symbolizes the indigenous, spiritual and nurturing elements of the Latino culture. The kiva is portrayed as a womb-like image – the entrance to the piece. From it flows the river, which nourishes the land. Flanking the kiva are bundles of maize, or corn, which underscore the kiva’s role as the source of sustenance.

Above the kiva is a cornerstone that makes reference to a symbol located above the entrance to Doheny Memorial Library, which portrays a teacher and students. For this mural, the teacher has been portrayed pointing out to the students the indigenous hieroglyphics that translate as “healing the river through strength.”

Given life from the blood streaming from the veins of the awakening giant are those here and now and those from elsewhere and the past who have helped bring about mural art or attention to the significance of this land.

Included among the figures are three of the USC students partly responsible for the commission and creation of the mural: Juan Whyte, César Lopez and Adriana Chavarin. Also pictured are David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera, pioneers in mural art.

Other images in this portion of the mural have been taken from the murals of other artists or from the media to represent the role of activism in social change. Collectively, these artists and activists continue to bring about change in our community. They represent the sentiment depicted in one of the placards, “We are the blood of the land.”

An Iconographic Roadmap to the Mural

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