Whoever Controls the Wall, Controls the Voice

Three art collectives and the International Folk Art Museum take over one Southside wall as the beginning of a movement to unite, inspire and beautify

Beneath a hot July sun, a myriad of bright colors are being ushered from aerosol cans and dipped paint brushes onto a stretch of wall on the Southside of Santa Fe. 
Over the course of the first week of July, an ancient story and thousands of years of rich culture and beliefs were transferred from the hearts and minds of three art collectives onto what used to be a nameless bit of concrete at 6085 Monte Verde Place. 

The Three Sisters Collective, the Alas de Agua Art Collective, the International Folk Art Museum and Amapolay Manufacturas Autonomas, an art collective from Lima, Peru, all came together. Not just to bring a bright spot of color to the Southside, but for a larger mission aimed at uniting the Indigenous, Chicano, Latino and Hispanic communities and their allies. The International Folk Art Museum connected Amapolay with the local collectives, provided the supplies and and paid the artists for their work. 

The collectives plan for it to be the first of several walls they will paint. Three Sisters and Alas de Agua will continue to meet and find blank spaces to create Indigenous and Hispanic/Latino-inspired art. 
John Paul Granillo, a local Chicano painter, muralist, sculptor and writer stands on the sidewalk, sweat beading on his forehead, and waves his paint-stained hands from left to right to describe the story taking life on the wall, starting with the piece by two visiting artists from Amapolay, based in Lima, Peru. 

What we have is a jaguar that represents the land and it goes through with love. And this snake that’s going through is going to be like a path. Because the path from Peru to Santa Fe has been a sacred path for millions of years and people have just been walking it forever,” Granillo tells SFR. “And so it’s prevalent with the border issue to show some of the things that we’re dealing with by being oppressed or marginalized voices… So the snake changes from Peru into Taos Pueblo style.” 

Christina M Castro, one of the three sisters from the Three Sisters Collective, steps in to explain their piece.

“The serpent is found in all Meso-American and American indigenous cultures. So whether it’s down south in Quetzalcoatl or up in the northern Pueblos; you see it in a lot of our Pueblo pottery designs and textile designs,” Castro says. “We ran the serpent through and then each section like ours will have Pueblo motif… That’s an altar, the steps and then corn is sacred to all indigenous cultures in the Americas. And then we pray for and do ceremony for rain for the crops and the continuation of that agrarian lifestyle that we love.” 

The far right piece of the mural is Granillo’s. It is a mix of symbolism using seeds, flowers, the rest of the feathered serpent and a proud eagle. 

"We're focusing on borders and seeds, not just the literal seeds that you plant in the ground even though that's something we want to focus on, the natural, but also the seeds that you're planning in the community. When I get the kids out of Monte del Sol to come mentor with us, when we get the kids from probation or the kids that have issues or marginalized in a sense, we get them in here and we plant the seed, the idea that community wants you and community loves you," Granillo says. "The eagle itself on the end is for women's marginalized voices and the sky. The jaguar was the land. Then you have the path and then you have the sky for direction. Three different collectives working as one. You get a little bit of flavor from every single thing. But throughout all of our cultures we have a lot of the same iconography."

Along with the artists, groups of children and youth have joined in and helped make the mural come to life. They are playing, resting in the shade, taking care of those younger and also picking up the paint brushes themselves. 
For Granillo, he suggested these cinder blocks outside on the Southside in order to give youth something to do, something accessible to inspire them to connect with their cultures, as well as to make a statement to the city of Santa Fe that locals will continue to take care of their piece of the city. Even if the majority of resources and attention go to Siler Road, Meow Wolf and downtown.

The Southside itself has been looked over… People on the Southside don’t have much other than a library and Swan Park,” Granillo says. “If the kids can walk by and see this or they drive by every day going to school maybe it will spark something inside them. Plus it beautifies this area because a lot of this area is a little more run down than the rest of the city.” 

For the Southside and the art collectives, the mural is more than a mix of colors depicting stories and cultures and traditions from the past—it gives the current population a louder, stronger, more colorful voice.
“The point of the wall was, whoever controls the wall controls the voice,” Granillo tells SFR. “Some things that couldn’t be said in public now can be said but through iconography and keeping your community clean.”
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