A Mural Two Years in the Making

On Sunday, August 1, community members from Springfield gathered on the corner of 8th and Main Streets for the Downtown LatinX Mural Celebration. The event and mural were sponsored by community organizations Escudo Latino and Community Alliance of Lane County. Two sub-organisations of CALC also sponsored the event: Springfield Alliance for Equity and Respect (SAfER) and their teen group, Citywide Unión de Activistas.

As reported by the Eugene Weekly last September, Johanis Tadeo, SAfER’s Community Organizer, had inspiration for a community mural after visiting East Los Angeles and San Francisco’s Mission District. Both are known for a high concentration of Latin murals.  

According to SAfER member Marion Malcolm, “this mural has been a dream for several years.” In Dec. 2018, SAfER began to make plans for the mural. A committee was formed to garner community support and awareness for the mural. The committee’s members were Kuri Gill, Aloha Heart, Mariela German Hernandez, Melissa Carino, Johanis Tadeo, and Marion Malcolm. 

The mural committee celebrating their hard work on Sunday August 1 [Courtesy of Ofelia Guzman Photography]

Soon after forming, they began to look for sources of funding as well as a place for the mural. They raised the funds through individual donations and applied for local art grants. 

Kuri Gill, a volunteer in charge of fundraising and development for SAfER, said their initial funding came from a grant provided by Lane County Cultural Coalition, awarded in Dec. 2019.

With funding secured, the team scheduled the mural to be painted on the side of Memo’s Mexican Restaurant, a longtime staple of downtown Springfield. The mural was to be completed by the end of summer 2020. 

Costa Rican-born Eugene muralist, Esteban Camacho Steffensen, was chosen to paint the mural in early 2020. At the time, Steffenson lived in China teaching art at an international school, though, and was unable to fly back to Oregon due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, completion of the mural was put on hold. 

Gill was able to apply for an extension of the grant and other fundraising efforts continued. In August 2020, the mural committee entered into a full agreement with Steffensen to complete the mural the following summer.

However, the pandemic didn’t stop the creative process. Steffensen was committed to incorporating local experiences into his art. From China, he joined-in on zoom calls with local community members from Escudo Latino and Citywide. 

During those calls he listened to individuals tell their stories about what it means to be a Latino or Latina living in Springfield.

Using Latin aesthetics, the mural blends the long history of the Latinx community with symbols representing everyday life in Springfield. The mural connects a shared history in Oregon with symbols of Latin roots in education, agriculture, and timber. 

Community Members Including Mayor VanGordon and volunteers from Springfields Department of Operations and Public Works celebrating the completion of the mural. [Courtesy of Ofelia Guzman Photography]

The mural honors the abundance of nutrients received from the land with the river and heritage through the symbol of corn. Steffensen hopes it helps others remember their past as he does his. He said the mural contains memories of his grandmother and her table filled with food.   

He hopes the mural also elicits a feeling of nostalgia through “magical realism” with his representations of animals and plants which are native and exotic, or, in-fact, not real. 

The celebration began after 4 p.m. with introductions of Steffensen by Tadeo. Sfeffensen explained the mural project to the community with the help of translator Katherine Sincuir. Steffensen finished with an invitation to the crowd to walk around the building to see the mural and enjoy the day’s festivities. 

Full support for the mural was provided by the Lane Cultural Coalition, the Oregon Arts Commission, Pacific Source, the Rotary Club of Springfield, the City of Springfield, and individual donors.

Support for the celebration was provided by Memo’s Mexican Restaurant, Erica’s Meat Market, Banner Bank, Neu Real Estate, Springfield Arts Commission, Springfield Chamber of Commerce, and Willamalane Park and Recreation District.

Music was provided for by local artists Los dos de Zima, Miguel Ramiez, and Rosie Hernandez–who marked the day with two poems she had dedicated for the event. 

Un Sueño en un Mundo de Oro 

Este poema está dedicado a todas las personas migrantes que han trabajado en el campo. Y a todos los que han sido separados de sus familias por leyes injustas.

Un sueño en un mundo de oro
Bajo los rayos del sol, día a día
En los campos con quemante ardor
Trabajando con fervor. 
La hora de comer ha llegado
Manos con sabor a tierra 
Cantos que el viento se ha llevado
Cosechas se llevan a las tiendas. 
De pronto una voz llega 
Hombres llegan del gobierno
Con el alma estremecida 
Miro todo al rededor. 
Also mis ojos al cielo 
Por mis hijos yo pido al creador
Mirando corer la gente 
buscando donde esconderse. 
Llantos desgarradores corazones sobresalientes 
el final del sueño ha llegado 
Y a mis hijos también se los han llevado.

Rosie Hernandez

A Dream in a Golden World 

This poem is dedicated to all the  migrant people who have worked in the fields. And to all who have been  separated from their families by  unjust laws.

A dream in a golden world
Under the rays of the sun, day by day
In the fields, with burning sun
Working fervently. 
Meal time has arrived 
Hands with earth flavor 
Songs that the wind has washed
Harvesting crops, what they take to the shops. 
Suddenly a voice comes 
Men come from the government
With the soul shaken 
I look all around. 
I lift my eyes to the sky 
For my children I ask the creator
Watching the people run 
Looking where they are going to hide. 
Crying desperate 
With agitated hearts 
The end of the dream has arrived
And my children, they are also taken  away. 

Rosie Hernandez
Poet Rosie Hernandez looks upon the mural in downtown Springfield
[Courtesy of Ofelia Guzman Photography]

The celebration ended at 6 p.m. after closing comments from the Director of Citywide and CALC member, Samantha Alcantar, and Board Chair of Escudo Latino, Mariela German Hernandez. 

German Hernandez remarked on the day’s events and said  “I really hope that the Latinx community feels included in the City of Springfield. The Latinx community is growing here in Springfield and it’s so nice to have something that we as Latinos can identify within our city limits.”

She hopes that all residents will be able to “feel the emotions” behind the mural. Further adding “This mural represents many families in our community and in the state of Oregon.”

Those in attendance took part in socializing, ice cream, and dancing. City leaders Mayor VanGordon and City Manager Nancy Newton were also in attendance along with City Council Members Steve Moe, Joe Pishioneri, and Kori Rodley. 

Mary Bell

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  1. August 17, 2022

    […] the guidance of local muralist Esteban Camacho Steffensen — the same muralist who painted the LatinX Mural on the side of Memo’s Mexican Restaurant in downtown […]

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