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 firstname.lastname@example.org.