Speedy Gonzales Runs From ICE Agents

Yescka's work on the wall outside Ali Baba's Cave on 19th and Valencia.

Hussein Dawah, 63, didn’t have to look twice to know that there was a work of art on the wall outside his restaurant on 19th and Valencia.

“This is not graffiti, this is art,” he said of the ICE agent chasing a mouse known as Speedy Gonzales, an American cartoon character much criticized for depicting an offensive stereotype of Mexicans.  “Graffiti, I cover right away.”

Dawah believes it is art because it reminds him of previous street art that has made his business fit into the trendiness of the neighborhood, he said on a sunny Friday as he grilled kebabs he carefully wrapped in pita bread for his customers at Ali Baba’s Cave on 799 Valencia Street, a restaurant that he has owned since 1982.

He’s right. The images were done by the Mexican graffiti artist Yescka, who has visited San Francisco over the last three years with the purpose of teaching youth that art is a way to express themselves.

Kate DeCiccio, mural artist and art teacher at the Leadership High School, invited Yescka to participate in the project Painting with Purpose, which teaches teenagers the technique and development of a mural. They also learn how to integrate their experiences by finding powerful images that transmit how they feel.

“You notice the change in the kids. It’s a different environment, they are attracted to it and although at first they might be a bit apathetic, seeing the evolution of the work they have created allows them to develop [creatively]”, said Yescka of the five-day process of creating a mural at the Leadership High-School.

This year, however, his visit to San Francisco had an added twist. He reunited with his childhood friend who lives in the Mission and met Oaxacan artist Calixto Robles.

Meeting with people from his hometown and walking around the Mission inspired him to share his own street art in the Mission and in Oakland. “To me, art belongs in the street because it represents social interests. The people have the highest say, not the galleries,” he said of his guerrilla-art approach.

Yescka believes that a street artist has a responsibility to create images that have strength, a criticism or irony. “I am interested in what is happening today, what happens in the places I visit,” he said.  “Latinos are suffering the effects of neoliberal policies — exploitation and discrimination. The massive deportation that forces them to leave family behind, in Arizona that’s in full swing.” His next stop was the border between Arizona and Sonora.

Back on Ali Baba’s Cave, tourists who walk by the stencil of a black and white ICE agent chasing a colored Speedy Gonzales stop. They take their cameras out and snap a photo or two, posing next to the stenciled image. “I was looking for an image that represented Mexicans, but one created by the gringos,” Yescka said of the American cartoon that depicts a brown mouse with a yellow hat and white clothes.

The cartoon was beloved among the Latino population, perhaps not because they identify but because they laugh at how they are falsely perceived in foreign land.

As for Dawah, he liked the art because it prevents the tagging that the city so adamantly requests him to re-paint and it attracts tourists to his restaurant.

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  1. 24-24

    that stencil is horrible

  2. missionresident

    We need more of this in the mission! Although, I think he looks more like a 50’s greaser than an ICE agent. This keeps graffiti off the walls for the most part and it liven’s up the hood. Please petition the artists to do something on the wall at 19th and mission. It used to be a soccer mural, and some asshole did a huge tag on that wall and now they had to paint over the mural. With no mural, a different tag goes up daily on that wall now and it’s a major eyesore for the neighborhood. It’s a reminder of all the gangs in the neighborhood that have no respect for the folks that live here. It’s a huge wall and the owner would gladly have a mural there vs. having to paint over graffiti daily. It’s a big enough wall for a collaboration of artists if someone can organize them. I’d love to try, but I can’t even paint a sunset!

  3. two beers

    The entire world is suffering from neo-liberal policy. Except for the banker/corporate/landlord elites.

  4. lettucepray

    This photo is to funny. Did they get Slowpoke Rodriguez?

  5. Russo

    Funny, when race is broached, it’s racism. But when race-baiters like John mention it, it’s not.

    • John

      No, it’s not racism every time race is mentioned. But race as a scientific concept doesn’t exist. It’s usually cited as a rationale for some behavior or desired behavior change.

      So when somebody does mention race, as Yescka does here, it is usually to score a point for his race over other races.

      Maybe that’s not racism per se. But it’s certainly race-card playing and identity politics. And I make no apology for calling it out.

      • BackToTheBurbs

        Ah, there you go again invoking science, how convenient. Care to enlighten us with the peer reviewed study that prooves race/ethnicity/geographic origin doesn’t exist?

        I thought we enlightened you a few months ago. Denying the existence of race/ethnicity leads to things like denying people personalized medical care due to their historical genetic predispotions. Hard to imagine how much more racist one could be …

        See it’s really meaningless to state ‘I’m not racist’ since it’s all the other things being said that clue people in.

        • John

          I didn’t say race doesn’t exist. It exists as a social concept and is shorthand for a common pattern of co-existing attributes.

          There are also some epidemiological correlations that exist, as noted. but they are due to geographical and historical factors. In terms of DNA, there is nothing of any substance and reliability. If I shows you the DNA of a dozen people, you could not determine their race.

          So I stand by the assertion that the introduction of race into a topic is typically done for self-serving reasons, as Yescka did here. And those who oppose racism should call him out on it, and not defend it as you appear to like to do.

          He who introduces race first into a discussion is the racist

  6. marcos

    Race is a construct imposed with intent of social control. The “white race” was constructed in the US first as WASPS, then with northern European Catholics, then southern Europeans were incorporated and finally Jews.

    After all Europeans were incorporated into whiteness by the 1950s, then the ever expanding circles of whiteness broadened to include Asians as candidate members.

    This is all done in order to divide and conquer for political control. These lines are completely arbitrary, irrational in their purported exactness.

    Thus, the difficulty of coalescing rational resistance to irrational classifications in the absence of direct irrational oppression.

    Besides, Latin America is connected to North America, and by that measure, we are all Americans.

    • economist

      Human beings traveled long distances tens of thousands of years before the Middle Ages. We are fortunate that some of the descendents of those travelers, later called Native Americans, live in our neighborhood.

      Your Eurocentric indoctrination compliments nicely to your other historical inaccuracies about slavery and warfare and your laughable assertion about whites becoming post-racial.

      Racism is no joke. However, you are racist joker.

      • John

        Wrong. Nobody travelled thousands of miles with any regularity or reliability before the middle-ages when the Europeans developed advanced sail boat technology. Only then did a significant number of people encounter other people who looked markedly different from themselves.

        It’s not un-natural that they would coin names for clusters of physical attributes and behavoral characteristics, which you might call “race”.

        But what became a problem is that people used that to rationalize bad behavior. Back then, it was the whites, even if one can construct a reasonable argument that many non-whites did well out of it.

        These days it is the non-whites who find utility in the concept.

        Either way, racism is wrong. The sad thing these days is that it is those who scream “racism” the most who are the most racist.

        It’s been a long, long time since I have seen any racism from a white. Unless of course it is a white liberal over-compensating by hating on his fellow whites. That happens.

        • marcos

          Polynesians regularly traveled thousands of miles long before the Europeans built their sailboats. The great migrations were many and varied and involved treks of thousands of miles.

          History did not begin the day that the first European staked off a private plot of land and nailed up his first crucifix to the wall.

        • John

          The concept of race was not developed by Polynesians, but by Europeans.

          Ironic, therefore, that it is now non-Europeans who most seek to propagate race as a concept.

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