I’ve been meaning to visit the Great Wall of Los Angeles ever since I took a class entitled City and Community: History of Chicana/Chicano Los Angeles, 20th Century. The professor, Eric Avila (author of Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles) focused on both popular culture and history texts. I took that class over four years ago and still haven’t made the trip, even when I had the opportunity to take an LA mural tour.
The Great Wall of Los Angeles is part of an extensive tradition of muralism in Los Angeles. According to Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), Los Angeles is now ìthe mural capital of the worldÖ with some 2,000 murals and counting, spread throughout, every city neighborhood.î
SPARC has been in existence since 1976 when Judy Baca co-founded the center. The Great Wall project was actually conceived by Baca and began in 1974. The project was completed over the course of six summers. Over 400 at-risk youth of ìdiverse social and economic backgroundsî participated alongside numerous community members, artists, scholars and oral historians. The mural is the worldís longest measuring over a half mile and is about 13 Ω feet high. It is located in the San Fernando Valley in the Tujunga Wash drainage canal. Recently, SPARC has sought funds for the renovation of the mural due to the damage as a result of pollution, earthquakes, sun and the water in the flood control channel. The preservation of the mural is necessary because it is a monument for Angelinos of color about their history.
There are many aspects of the wall that pertain to the Chicana/o experience in twentieth century Los Angeles as well as those of other ethnic and religious groups. Such panels are those depicting the Zoot Suit Riots, the division of the barrios, the eviction of residents from Chavez Ravine, and the deportation of 350,000 Mexicans.
The Great Wall is currently not up to date, but I wonder what types of panels would be added. I’d like to see a panel dedicated to Fernando “El Toro” Valenzuela and another commemorating the 1993 hunger strike of students at UCLA demanding a Chicana/o Studies department. Other events could be the 1994 Northridge quake, the 1992 LA riots/uprising. What would you want to see?