New mural in North Long Beach brings attention to family immigration stories

There’s a new mural in North Long Beach and it aims to spark a conversation about immigration, according to its creator.

Covering the south side of a Salvadoran-Mexican food joint, the piece shows a young girl riding a coyote in a desert night surrounded by agave plants—a metaphor for family separation, said Arts Council for Long Beach fellow Jose Loza, who finished the piece last week.

The girl is searching for her family that was separated, said Loza. It’s a reference to numerous immigration stories that involve the separation of families, which received national attention recently when it was discovered that federal immigration officials were separating parents from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border, causing major controversy this summer and sparking protests across the country.

Since the backlash, authorities have ended the practice, but have failed to unite every family under court order due, in part, to the fact that the government had deported parents while their children remained in detention centers.

Long Beach artist Jose Loza stands in front of his finished mural, titled Presencia De Lo Invisible, at 5631 Atlantic Ave. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

Loza said the coyote represents those who are paid to smuggle people through the U.S.-Mexico border, often a life-threatening endeavor that many are willing to take in order to escape poverty and violence-stricken countries.

“I found that interesting how people use him [el coyote] as a guide—but he can be good, he can be bad,” said Loza.

Those risking to cross the border illegally do so with not only the risk of dying from dehydration or getting shot by border patrol, but also getting robbed of thousands of dollars, left behind or even sold to drug cartels by coyotes who promise to take them to America.

The inspiration for the mural came from Loza’s lack of knowledge of his Mexican family’s border crossing stories.

“I found it interesting how we were just sitting around the table and [Loza’s father-in-law] would start telling me stories about the three times he came here, how he got caught and sent back,” said Loza, who eventually interviewed his family members. “He was telling me jokingly while we were sitting around waiting for the food to be ready.”

Long Beach artist Jose Loza adds finishing touches to his latest mural, Presencia De Lo Invisible. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

Loza’s artwork usually encompasses photorealistic portraits or satire pieces, but with this mural he said he wanted to create something more illustrative and whimsical. Having strong female figures in his life, Loza wanted to showcase a young girl protagonist.

Born in Mexico but having lived his whole life in Long Beach, Loza said he purposely chose creating this mural in North Long Beach (where he has been living the last five years) because of the dearth of art north of Del Amo Boulevard. However, this is not his first mural, having also partnered up with Councilman Rex Richardson in the past to address these issues through the Creative Corridor Challenge.

You can find Loza’s latest mural, Presencia de lo Invisible, at Chiltepe restaurant, located at 5631 Atlantic Ave. Try some Salvadoran pupusas or Mexican tacos while you’re there.

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Stephanie Rivera is the immigration and diversity reporter for the Long Beach Post. Growing up as one of six kids in the working-class immigrant suburb of South Gate, she was taught the importance of civic engagement and to show compassion for others. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015. An avid Harry Potter fan, Stephanie now lives in Bixby Knolls with her boyfriend and their bearded dragon, Austin.