Miguel Contreras Learning Complex Digital Mural Dedication


The Project

In 2011, Distinguished UCLA Professor Judy Baca’s UCLA students of the UCLA@SPARC Cesar Chavez Digital/Mural Lab “Beyond the Mexican Mural” courses at the request of Maria Elena Durazo, of the AFL-CIO collaborated with the UCLA Labor Center, Professors Kent Wong and Janna Shaddock Hernandez, the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex (MCLC) High School Students, and SPARC to produce a new 18ft x 33ft Digital Mural for permanent placement in downtown LA. The work, sponsored by the Miguel Contreras Foundation, is installed in a cafeteria centrally located on the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex grounds. The UCLA students’ assignment was to create a mural in a 20 week period that commemorates the legacy of labor leader Miguel Contreras while visually representing the issues affecting the students of the Center, who come from the local area. Students began the project utilizing the DML methodology, which focuses on researching the specific site where the mural will be located. Studies were conducted by students regarding the demographics of the region and school, the income and labor force of the students’ families, local violence, gang activity, and what the students perceived as assets of their neighborhoods. Workshops with the MCLC students were conducted to learn about the high school students’ aspirations as well as the impediments to achieving their goals and the obstacles that keep them from graduating (the school has a 56% drop out rate). Students’ parents were also interviewed to assess their viewpoints on local community issues, their children’s obstacles, and their own jobs, immigration status, and visions of their children’s futures. Following a tour of the high school and opening introductions, the initial conceptualization of the mural began at a workshop held at MCLC, which continued to foster relationships between the high school and UCLA students. Through this workshop both groups of students collaborated in a mutual learning environment to articulate educational, cultural, financial, and community issues weighing on the shoulders of these youth in a highly urbanized region of Los Angeles with a majority Central American demographic. Themes were carefully selected and envisioned for a future workshop at SPARC, which opened the imagery process of the mural. Utilizing state-of-the-art computer technology at SPARC, students were able to produce visual imagery in the digital lab. The walls of the lab were quickly filled with facts, metaphors, and visual imagery. Woven together, these elements connected the history of Miguel Contreras with the present-day stories of the community culminating in a sense of identity and unified belonging. From this important dialogue, and in combination with the students of MCLC, we created a mural that would remain forever on the walls of the cafeteria, prominently impacting future generations. This mural was not only meant to commemorate Miguel Contreras, but to show how his legacy would continue with the graduates of the school who would plant the seeds of future dreams into the local soil. The mural would show the work of the past and the planting of the future by the educated and empowered graduate and fighter for social justice; it would show the future of Los Angeles as a green city with violence and social injustice as a distant memory of the past. The mural inspires achievement, elevates women, honors the past, and creates belonging. Professor Baca teaches for the Cesar E. Chavez Department of Chicana/o Studies and World Arts and Cultures Department This is the moment the veil dropped with 30 people pulling the cord. The Mayor, Maria Elena Durazo, students from UCLA,students from Miguel Contreras High School, union members, sponsors .. . everyone



“Our parents left behind who they wanted to be so that today we could be what we dream of becoming. Youth that are here, I tell you, don’t let people tell you that you can’t become what you dream of. I tell you, I am an undocumented woman of color at UCLA and I did it. Now I want you to show me that you can accomplish your dreams, too. Show me how its done! Claro que si se puede. Vamos a hecharle ganas! ” -Karina Perez, UCLA student and Miguel Contreras Learning Complex Graduate (Speech given at the Miguel Contreras Digital Mural Unveiling)


UCLA student Karina Perez’s Speech:

Screen shot 2012-05-09 at 5.46.44 PM


“My name is Karina and I am a graduate from Miguel Contreras currently a student at UCLA. When I first met Judy I said “Judy, I want to be a social Justice artist” little did I know that a few months later I would receive my acceptance letter from UCLA and get myself enrolled in Judy Baca’s class. Producing this mural along with Miguel Contreras Pulse club, an art and revolution here club on this campus, and other UCLA students not only expanded my mind but also allowed me to establish strong relationships with my classmates. We spent so much time together that it’s like we had a whole new family at the lab. Unfortunately, one of members has now passed. Damina. I remember the first time I talked to Damina was when she gave me a ride home. I was confused on how to pronounce her name and too shy to ask her so I decided to nickname her Dee. Unfortunately Dee is no longer physically with us but she remains in our hearts joyous and lively as she was.” -Karina Perez, UCLA student and Miguel Contreras Learning Complex Graduate (Speech given at the Miguel Contreras Digital Mural Unveiling)


UCLA student Andrea Macias’ Speech: Screen shot 2012-05-09 at 6.42.29 PM “There were many hours of research on the Labor movements and Miguel Contreras, We had several workshops, and many, many creative ideas. We learned that Miguel Contreras was a prominent leader that fought for labor rights and social justice. We also learned that he was working in the fields as a child with his family when he was inspired by Dolores Huerta to join the UFW because of unfair labor contracts. This was our foundation for the mural which is depicted in the first half… …The second half of the mural is the most inspiring. In meeting with the community and speaking with the high school students we learned of their challenges, dreams and aspirations. Through an epiphany index card workshop, we asked the students what events in your life have made an impact and how have these events influenced your life? What we discovered was many students saw violence and crime in their neighborhoods, many of their friends were dropping out of school and many families suffered financial hardships. We wanted to represent these young voices. Some students realized how important an education is because they see the sacrifices their families have made for them. Other students stated that expressing themselves through music, art and poetry was their personal sanctuary and freedom. Some students revealed the injustices they suffered because they felt the pressure of having to fill a mold within a social category. Through all of these obstacles, I was most inspired by the hope that these young students continue to hold on to. And together we realized that no matter how different we may appear to be, we all have high hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow.” -Andrea Macias, UCLA student (Speech given at the Miguel Contreras Digital Mural Unveiling)


UCLA student Jose Gonzalez’s Speech: Screen shot 2012-05-09 at 5.46.16 PM

“As a child of immigrant parents in search of better opportunities, who have worked the tropical lands of the Yucatán Península of Southern México, home of the marvelous Mayan culture, and the fields of California especially the world renowned strawberry fields of Oxnard, it is an honor to be part of commemorating the outstanding labor leader Miguel Contreras, social justice and the work of laborers in the development of California. They have been key in improving our livelihood. Because of their incredible contribution to society, we are gathered in warm celebration… …I would like to express my deepest admiration to Judy Baca. Her commitment to Social Justice is unconditional! This passion for Social Justice is inspiring and breathtaking! I thank her from the bottom of my heart for believing in us and for this amazing opportunity to contribute to the community. During her outstanding journey, she has given countless opportunities to generations of youths. She has created endless mutual-understanding environments in order for communities to unite. As I like to refer to her, she is a designer of dreams.” -Jose Gonzalez, UCLA student (Speech given at the Miguel Contreras Digital Mural Unveiling)


Mayor Villaraigosa endorses the Miguel Contreras Mural



Left: Maria Elena and Judy Baca at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex Dedication Ceremony.  Right:  UCLA/SPARC team


In Loving Memory of Damina Green



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