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Colorado's Chicano/a/x murals placed on list of most endangered historic places

Denver - Emanuel Martinez-La Alma 1978.JPG
Posted at 3:25 PM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 19:29:25-04

DENVER – On Tuesday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the Chicano/a/x Community Murals of Colorado on its 2022 List of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

This the first time the Trust has placed murals on its list, as first reported by The Denver Post Wednesday morning.

“They represent our ancestry, our heritage, our history, and also tell our very diverse story of the true history of the United States, where many different communities are recognized for their contributions,” said Lucha Martinez de Luna, director of the Chicano/a/x Community Murals of Colorado Project.

Martinez de Luna’s organization has been working for years to preserve the state's murals created by chicano/a/x artists.

Martinez de Luna said unfortunately, many of these murals have already been lost.

“They’ve been whitewashed. A mural — a lot of times — is just painted over white, and nothing replaces it. It's replaced with a white wall. So that's what we mean by whitewashing,” Martinez de Luna said. “It's really, really tragic, because what happens is the community responds because they're angry. Many of these murals were painted with youth in the community and they're angry, so they end up tagging the walls.”

Martinez de Luna said gentrification has also played a role.

“I feel like it's a perpetual cycle and I don't know why this country has continuously erased our past and denied us access to our past,” Martinez de Luna said.

Martinez de Luna’s father, Emanuel Martinez, is a muralist and several of his murals have been destroyed.

I did my first mural at the age of 13 in a school for juvenile delinquents in Golden, Colorado, “ Emanuel Martinez said. “My first public mural was done in 1968 and then most of the murals I did were during the 70s. Most of them have been whitewashed over the years… The gentrification hasn’t helped. I did a mural in 1976. It was the largest mural in Colorado and it was up for approximately 15 years, and somebody bought the building and just whitewashed the whole mural.”

Martinez said this designation is very important to him and other artists.

“This whole designation is finally acknowledging the importance of our murals, the history of our murals, so at least one of my murals will be saved,” he said.

That mural is located at La Alma Recreation Center.

Martinez de Luna said up until now, the murals have had not protected. But now, with that protection in place, the Chicano/a/x Community Murals of Colorado Project can focus on more aspects of preservation.

“One of the big things we're trying to do is put a mural shield on these murals that will protect them from UV rays, but also put plaques on the murals. So we’re hoping when they see a plaque they're going to understand and think before painting over it,” Martinez de Luna said.

"Our main concern is that people that are moving into the Denver area and buying up these properties acknowledge the significance of the murals and not just whitewash and they should at least consult the community about their importance to them," Martinez said.

Martinez de Luna said right now, there about 40 murals that fall under the endangered designation, but her organization will continue searching for murals that need to be preserved and is asking for the community’s help to do so.