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This seminal essay by Victor Alejandro Sorell is an early attempt to gauge the history and evolution of Hispanic-American (now Latino) barrio/community muralism in greater Chicago, from its inception in the mid-1960s through its development into the mid-1970s. Emphasis is given to Mexican, Chicano, and Puerto Rican artists and their murals. The essay demonstrates that the Hispanic-American mural experience in Chicago's Latino neighborhoods was a confluence of anthropological, ecological, and socio-political interests. The author discusses a recent spate of texts on murals, the use of the term Chicano, and the political circumstances surrounding the production and imagery of some specific murals made by the members of ALBA (Association of the Latin Brotherhood of Artists), Marguerite Ortega and Aurelio Díaz of MARCH (el Movimiento Artístico Chicano), and the Puerto Rican Art Association (whose most visible members were Mario Galán and Héctor Rosario). Sorrel’s visual analysis includes a consideration of iconographic content and stylistic aspects as they related to local politics and historical precedents, including Mexican murals of the 1920s and 1930s as well as murals commissioned by the Works Progress Administration.


The Chicago-based activist, critic, and art historian Victor Sorell’s essay appeared in 1976 in Revista Chicano-Riqueña, one of the early scholarly journals to publish and, thereby promote, marginalized ethnic art forms such as barrio/community murals. The murals discussed in the pages of this essay are important both as artistic, expressive statements, and as historical, political, and social vehicles embodying what anthropologist Victor Turner would call “communitas.” Citing numerous contemporary texts on murals in the United States, including John Weber and Eva Cockcroft’s book Towards a People’s Art, The Contemporary Mural Movement (1976), Sorell contextualizes his essay within a field in which the dramatic rise in mural production during the late 1960s and early 1970s prompted scholars and critics to produce an unprecedented number of texts on murals in Latino neighborhoods in U.S. cities.

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