Mural on First Street wiped out from Boyle Heights wall
As I was making my way east on First Street about a few weeks ago, I knew that Hugo Martinez Tecoatl was at work. The use of bright and energetic colors, his distinguishing use of silhouettes and the familiar faces of Zapata confirmed that Hugo was working on something. Most folks will know Hugo as he was the one that painted Casa del Mexicano a few years ago. He was also part of the ‘Jornalero Papers’ exhibition at Self help Graphics on May 1st.
And every other day as I passed by the mural near Savannah Street, I would see more colors and shapes taking form. I started seeing a jaguar, Zapata, an olmec head and another face I couldn’t recognize. It felt like I was unwrapping a present one painful step at a time, the excitement gradually building as more and more was added to the wall. That’s when it clicked in my head to take pics so I would be able to share them online and later on in a blog post after Hugo finished with the wall. But problem is, it got buffed.
Just like all the other times I had passed by the mural on my bike, I slowed down to check out some of the progress he had made, but this time around all I got was a ugly guacamole green wall in place of where the mural used to be. Turns out that someone called the ‘art police’ on Hugo and his art, leading to the removal of the piece. It wasn’t till I got a hold of Self Help Graphics program manager, Joel Garcia and Boyle Heights artist/muralist Raul Gonzalez, that I got the scoop.
See wad had happened was that a community member didn’t like what Hugo was doing, they decided to call the cops and the cops talked to the building owner, who then painted over the mural. Both Joel and Raul talked to Hugo about what went down immediately after it got painted over. Turns out that Hugo talked to the building owner, who gave him permission to paint on the wall. That being said, the person who called the cops and the officer involved in the event, both scared/intimidated the owner with threats of citations, fines for not having permits, the art being described as gang tagging, etc.
The owner, not wanting to deal with the cops or even risk getting any kind of fine, complied with the police and painted over the wall. So, since when is LAPD in charge of what goes up on walls? The person who called the cops must have a special number cause when I call LAPD to take down tagging, they tell me to call the city cause that’s not their problem. But if it’s some ugly ass billboard, the cops will defend that to no end.
Joel and Raul are working with Hugo on resolving the matter personally at Jose Huizar’s office. At the same time, the talks on getting a new mural ordinance passed are still that, talks, as more art continues to be erased from the walls of Boyle Heights. And all because one person didn’t like what was on the walls and decided to call the cops. Some folks just can appreciate beauty.