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.
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.”
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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