One of the Mission’s signature Cesar Chavez murals has been vandalized once more, one year after its creators excised portions of it to deter taggers. The mural, titled “Y tu, y yo y Cesar” (You, me and Cesar)” located on York Street across the street from St. Francis’ Fountain, had black paint thrown over paintings of five civil rights leaders.

Carlos “Kookie” Gonzalez, the mural’s original painter, said he was notified on Saturday by a friend that parts of the mural had been vandalized and that some of the portraits had their mouths and eyes blacked out. He and his fellow artist Suaro Cervantes spent Monday redoing the mural, costing them several hundred dollars in supplies.  

Vandals painted over the faces of Native American leader Sitting Bull, Nelson Mandela and an unnamed woman from the Brown Berets. Two children that were depicted along with Malcolm X had their faces vandalized and a painting of Dolores Huerta had the eyes and mouth blackened. 

Cervantes, a muralist with Precita Eyes, said he and Gonzalez spent several hours repainting parts of the mural and removing paint in others. He said parts of the mural will have to be redone because the vandals used paint that would not come off completely.

“When it comes to vandalizing people’s work, we hate to see it and it sucks. We’ve got to come in stronger and harder and not let it hold us back,” Cervantes said. 

Gonzalez last year opted to replace the “Huelga Bird” United Farm Workers’ logo next to Chavez with the portrait of Huerta. That eagle symbol, subsequently appropriated by the Norteño gang, had been hit with tit-for-tat vandalism for a while, leading Gonzalez to ultimately ditch it. 

Incessant vandalism of the United Farm Workers’ logo, a symbol subsequently appropriated by a gang, led muralist Carlos Gonzalez to eventually paint over the “Huelga Bird” with a portrait of Dolores Huerta. Photo by Carlos Gonzalez.

Gonzalez does not believe the defacement of Huerta and other portraits was gang-related, as he believes to have the case before, but rather a result of culture clashes in San Francisco.

The building does not have cameras. 

“The gang bangers stopped hitting it, but then the racists started hitting murals in the area,” Gonzalez said. “We thought it would be a neutral image and then it got hit up by who knows what. it was definitely someone who didn’t respect the culture and the community.” 

Cervantes said he would be using varnish to paint over a protective layer over the entire mural to make it easier to protect not only from graffiti but the elements. 

Gonzalez said the mural’s origin can be traced to a mural he and Ray Patlan did back in 1985 that featured people from the neighborhood. In 1995, Gonzalez recruited Cervantes to redo the mural, but instead focus on civil rights leaders. 

The future of the mural, however, is unclear. It is painted on the western side of the Giant Washers laundromat at 2799 24th St. and its owner, John Muhawieh, plans to demolish the structure. According to documents submitted the city’s planning department, Muhawieh plans on building a five-story apartment building at the site, though it is still going through the approval process. 

But Gonzalez is optimistic.

“You know, like an animal that is about to go extinct? That’s what this mural is like … but we’re going to survive,” he said. 

The Cesar Chavez mural

Muralists Carlos “Kookie” Gonzalez and Suaro Cervantes spent hours retouching this work at York and 24th after vandals blacked out the faces of world civil rights leaders. Some portions of the mural will have to be replaced, as the vandals’ paint could not be removed. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez