The sociology department chair at San Francisco State University wrote “Art and Social Movements: Cultural Politics in Mexico and Aztlán,” about artists’ influence on Mexican and Chicano activism in the 1960s to ’80s.
How did artists help drive social movements?
They created visual discourses that allowed people to imagine themselves differently — as empowered citizens or feminist women … as people with rights who could stand up to their government.
Several of these artists had local ties. Several of the Chicano artists — Ester Hernandez, Malaquias Montoya, Patricia Rodriguez — they all moved here as young people and became active in the Chicano movement. Some of these artists still have art around the Bay Area. Juana Alicia, she has a very powerful mural that is still visible at 24th Street and York. Balmy Alley is an alley in the Mission district that’s famous for its murals. The very first Chicano murals were painted there in the 1970s.
Do you see modern echoes?
When I attend marches or rallies today in the Bay Area, I still see people carrying images that are out of the work Chicano artists were doing in the ’60s and ’70s. One artist whose work I’ve seen again and again is Rini Templeton. She died in 1986. I’m not even sure if they know who she is, but the images still have such relevance.