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You Can’t Ban History

An artist's response to Arizona's ban on ethnic studies.

Book Life mural section

Cross-posted from Indian Country Today Media Network.

Street artist Jaque Fragua, Jemez Pueblo, whom we last saw creating a mural in Miami with his American Indian Mural Krew, recently beautified a plywood wall in downtown Tucson, Arizona. Fragua, like many people, is concerned about the choices Arizona’s lawmakers are making that seem increasingly hostile to minorities, whether they be Latino or Native. The artist shared his thoughts on the work.

What was your vision for this mural?

Jaque Fragua: Like most of my murals, I don’t start with a preconceived visual design. I just attack the wall with layers of paint and eventually the vision will reveal itself to me, and to the public. This is what happened in this mural.

Ok then, what was the inspiration for it?

Jaque Fragua: The inspiration comes from my frustration with Arizona’s continued disappointing and preposterous political agenda, more specifically the HB 2281 bill which has removed Ethnic Studies from our young leaders’ education. I feel the intent is to spread such an ignorant bill to other states and if we allow this fire to spread, our communities will surely suffer from a lack of the critical understanding of our peoples’ true history and culture. Thus, I found a wall in downtown Tucson to emphasize the need for this understanding and to combat the banning of our people’s literature.

So armed with that inspiration, you attack the wall with paint—what is the end result we’re seeing here?

Jaque Fragua: Interestingly enough, the wall turned into something of a timeline of colonization, or decolonization, with Columbus’ fleet charging the sea, to present moment where people are reading banned books, to a Toltec design which represents the visionary path to a healthy world, which is the side where I began the painting.

And almost hidden among the characters and designs we do have the letters “R – E – A – D”—its final message, then, is one of education?

Jaque Fragua: Yes, and that brings up something ironic. The wall is surrounding a construction zone where these developers are turning an old charter school into a bar. I guess we still have a long way to go when the masses value inebriation as opposed to education. However, I feel the wall is serving its purpose.

Click here to see the full work.


Interview by the Indian Country Today Media Network.

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