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In this text, Victor A. Sorell considers the works of the three Chicago-based, Mexican muralists Aurelio Díaz Alfaro, Marcos Raya, and Vicente Mendoza through the prism of what he characterizes as three language types—“private,” “public,” and “metapublic.” Sorell uses these characterizations to illustrate Pre-Columbian scholars’ idea that murals should be interpreted, “as a codified grammatical language of communication rather than as a language of purely aesthetic expression.” Through their murals, Sorell argues, Díaz Alfaro, Raya, and Mendoza “speak” in a public language of color, taking advantage, in turn, of a private language of images or textual elements that may be more readily understood by Chicano or Mexican viewers. And they also speak in a meta-public language when elements that are perhaps recognizable but not readily accessible to broad audiences—such as the Mixtec Codices in Díaz Alfaro’s work—have been employed.


In this text, which was published in the winter 1983 issue of Mirarte: Chicago’s Latino Art Publication, art historian and activist Victor A. Sorell analyzes the works by three prominent mural painters in Chicago: Aurelio Díaz Alfaro, Marcos Raya, and Vicente Mendoza. In his view, Díaz Alfaro’s murals reference indigenous cultures of the Americas in conjunction with contemporary Chicano “lived realities,” thus addressing two research topics: “National Imaginaries/ Cosmopolitan Identities” and “Art, Activism, and Social Change.” Raya’s murals are political and social community “blackboards” while addressing the latter topicality. Mendoza’s murals, in turn, have a didactic function, and those painted inside commercial establishments encourage artists to earn a living through their art, thus addressing the research topic “Issues of Race, Class, and Gender in the Visual Arts of Latino-America.”

Victor Alejandro Sorell, Gabrielle Toth; Harper Montgomery, collaborator
Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, USA
Courtesy of the private archives of Victor A. Sorell, Chicago, IL