What Juana Alicia's "Alto Al Fuego/Ceasefire" mural looked like before vandals defaced it starting around Halloween.

The mural artist Juana Alicia said she and her friends have undertaken a fund-raising campaign to restore a Mission Street mural from 1988 that survived until October when a vandal smeared it with paint and tagged it with the word “Toy.”

Alicia said she painted the mural near 21st Street after returning from Central America infuriated by the U.S. military’s involvement there. Set in pastoral Honduras, splayed hands shield an indigenous man from the machine guns of the U.S. – backed Nicaraguan Contras.

In addition to recalling the Central American civil wars of the 1980s, the mural also records the Mission District’s history as a place filled with organizing against U.S. involvement in those conflicts.

“I wanted to do something to protest the illegal invasion of Honduras,” Alicia said as she surveyed the damage done to her mural, Cease Fire. “In 2002, I repainted most of the piece, this time a little darker, in more chiaroscuro tones, given the ongoing nature of its theme.”

The mural is one of several that have been vandalized this fall.  The colorful and detailed San Franciscan-themed vignettes of Susan Green’s “Creativity Explored Project,” a large-scale mural painted in 2006 on 21st Street west of Mission Street, are also covered with the word “Toy” and the same smears of spray paint.

South on Mission Street on 23rd, the message “Stop! Vandalizing our murals. Its does not make u cool. It is against the law,” is written along the top of another mural sabotaged with white and black spray paint.

Police are still looking for those responsible. Either the same person or others have returned a handful of times to add layers of graffiti on the 21st Street murals.

“What I can tell you is that in my opinion, “Toy” is not a graffiti tag…no self-respecting graffiti vandal would use this as a moniker,” said San Francisco Police Department Graffiti Abatement Officer Martin Ferreira. “A “Toy” in graffiti slang means somebody who is a “wanna be,” or an unskilled graffiti writer.”

Ferreira said he thought someone else came along after the original damage was done, adding more paint and the word “Toy.”

“This is most likely a sign of disrespect to whom ever defaced the mural in the first place,” Ferreira said.

The defacement of Alicia’s mural at 2489 Mission Street started on Halloween.

“It was a shock to see,” said Basem Kurd, whose corner store is next ‘Cease Fire.’

“They’ve tagged before but never like this.”

Nidal and Saandra Nazzal cried when they saw what vandals had done to the beloved 9′ x 13′ mural painted on a side of their Mission Street building.

The Nazzals filed a police report on Nov. 2 after the initial defacement, and said they will prosecute to the full extent of the law should SFPD arrest a suspect.

While police are looking for suspects, Alicia has covered the lower half of her damaged mural with green paint.

“Several people have contacted me regarding the restoration, expressing sadness, outrage and a desire to see the work restored,” said Alicia.

She plans to recreate the mural in either ceramic tile or ceramic steel.  Both are easier to clean and more tag-resistant than acrylic.

The muralist is working with Chicana Latina Foundation’s Olga Talamante and Desiree Smith of San Francisco Architectural Heritage to restore Cease Fire and Alicia’s other 15 murals around the Mission.

The murals are well known tourist attractions and already their loss has been noted.

“So many people come to take pictures of it,” said a staffer at Cupid’s Boutique, adjacent to Green’s mural.

Pablo Rodriguez, who operates a t-shirt shop on 21st and Mission, said he “couldn’t even believe [vandals] would touch the murals.”

“It’s so sad,” said a visitor from Ohio this week as he passed ‘Creativity Explored Project,’ asking “Do you know if they are going to re-do it?”

Alicia said that anyone interested in helping to restore the mural should contact her at juanaaliciaa@gmail.com.

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Greta Mart is a Bay Area-based newspaper reporter and freelance writer, and currently a student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. From 2005 to 2012 she was a staff reporter at two community newspapers in WA and CA, and has contributed to several Bay Area and Seattle area newspapers, as well as Pacific Yachting and Italy's Gulliver and La Republicca's D magazines. Greta holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and studied history at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. She lives aboard her sailboat at the Berkeley Marina.

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  1. To be clear, Mission Local is admiring tagging sidewalks and buildings for “evicted” tenants, but not this… right?

  2. Juana’s Mural is one of the most powerful images in all of the Mission. It is shocking that anyone could do this.

    All of these murals, plus the mural on 24th and Treat were ‘tagged’ with the same name,same letter, same color. One tagger crossed the line here. Saying that “techies” did this crime is just a distraction. Does anyone know which tagger this was?

    1. I do not know, Fred, but I suspect that a less politically controversial mural might have enjoyed a better fate.

  3. All these new tech companies and their employees should be the ones that provide funds to restore these beautiful murals that adorn the Mission. In addition when the culprits of this defacing are caught they should be forced to do community work so they embrace the neighborhood as theirs in a positive manner. I believe in free expression but not by defacing someone else’s work

    1. Why should tech companies pay for this? Why not banks? Real estate companies? Accountancy partnerships? Lawyers? Unions? Non-profits?

      I see no logic in your connection.

    2. Or, better yet, maybe parents who are letting their kids run wild and deface our beautiful City should pay for this. Regardless of popular opinion, Tech companies are not sending their minions into the City to paint over historically relevant and beautiful artwork.

  4. Many thanks to Mission Local and the many community members that have expressed their solidarity with the Alto Al Fuego/Ceasefire mural, and their support for a recreated version of the original piece. My heartfelt thanks as well to the Nazzal family for giving the wall in 1986, and allowing me to restore and revive the work over the ensuing decades. The family has be a great supporter of my work and the arts in general.
    Since the wall surface itself is an unstable ground for the painting, having suffered peeling and cracking for many years, it is my intention to raise funds to repaint the mural in a more stable, enduring and graffiti resistant medium, such as ceramic steel or tile. I am currently working on building a fundraising campaign toward this end, and appreciate any support that people might offer. Please feel free to contact me through my website (juanaalicia.com) or on Facebook at juanaaliciamuralista.


    Juana Alicia

    1. Juana, consider doing a Kickstarter (or similar) campaign to raise funding for resurfacing the mural. It *will* be successful. Despite what people are saying here you have a lot of fans in the technology community who will open their wallets gladly to support local artists.