A muralist in a skirt and bucket hat throws up a peace sign, three other muralists stand behind a ladder, and all stand in front of their newly painted Giants mural.
Muralists DJ Agana, Josué Rojas, Anthony Jimenez and Angel Velazquez. Photo taken by Annika Hom, April 30, 2023.

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The three muralists were appraising a wall on Alabama Street last week for a mural honoring the Giants, when one noticed a young person on a skateboard watching them from a distance. 

It was 19-year-old Ángel Velazquez, who was skating home when he spotted the trio planning a mural at the Latino Task Force Hub near 19th and Alabama streets. The work had been commissioned by the San Francisco Giants and the Latino Task Force ahead of a planned San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres game in the Mexico City series for Major League Baseball. 

Velazquez thought he recognized one of the muralists, DJ Agana, the creator behind the powerful La Doña mural at 26th and Mission streets, and the magenta mural at the 21st and Bryant dry cleaners. “Man, it was crazy,” Velazquez said. “I wanted to learn.” 

Agana was there, alongside Anthony Jimenez and their mural mentor, Josué Rojas. They talked with the young Velazquez and decided to teach him their craft.

Up until then, Velazquez had only painted houses. The teen immigrated from Guatemala six years ago, and attended Mission High School before dropping out to work. A former teacher encouraged him to re-enroll, and this semester he plans to graduate from El Camino Alternativo at Hilltop High School.

That first evening, Rojas invited Velazquez to return the next day to paint the Giants mural. But he was a no-show. 

Two days later, however, fate intervened: Velazquez was at Hilltop High’s prom, amid a sea of teens in suits and dresses, when his counselor pulled him aside. There was a local artist he should meet, the counselor said. “I was like, ‘Oh good, I want to see him,’” Velazquez recalled. “It was Josué.”

Rojas was at the dance with his wife, Allison, also a counselor at Ida B. Wells High School, who had invited him there as her date. When Rojas realized it was the same skateboarder he had met, he thought, “God, it’s meant to be.” Again, Rojas urged the teen: “Yo Ángel, come tomorrow.” 

This time, Velazquez showed, arriving early that Saturday morning, ready to unload supplies and set up when Jimenez arrived at Alabama Street with a coffee. 

“I was like, ‘Oh shit. This kid really wants to work,’” Jimenez recalled. “It’s cool to see that tenacity reflected in Ángel.”

For Agana, it was gratifying having Rojas, someone “who lives around the corner” and can reflect the neighborhood, work on the Giants piece with the crew.  The four painted out Central American-style houses with vibrant roofs, the “international orange” Golden Gate bridge and a Giants baseball player. 

“He’s coming with that, like, fresh perspective. It just reminds me of those days when I was young and hungry to learn.”

Rojas paid Velazquez, though the teen said he would have worked just to learn. “He’s 19 going on 30,” Rojas said. “He’s a mature guy.”  

Painting on a large scale requires you to brush with “your whole body,” Rojas said; you squat, you stand, you use ladders, and paint for hours at a time. And Velazquez learned quickly. “I really like to paint, you know? I could do this a long time, a whole day,” said Velazquez.

By Sunday’s watch party for the Giants vs. Padres game in Mexico City, the mural was nearly done. The four artists took a photo with a dancer from the Brazilian Carnaval troupe Fogo Na Roupa, whose portrait Agana painted for the center of the mural. 

While the trio of veteran artists kicked up their feet, enjoying the late Sunday afternoon. Velazquez, with earbuds in, tenderly painted the mural’s finishing touches on his own. 


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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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