By Pablo Jaime Sainz
A group of Southwestern College students have completed a mural that depicts important aspects of the history of San Ysidro.
Titled “Learning from the Past, Living for the Future” (Aprendiendo del Pasado, Viviendo para el Futuro), the mural was done by Professor Brian Dick´s Beginning Art class offered at the college´s San Ysidro Educational Center.
The class, which had 13 students of Mexican, Filipino, and African-American backgrounds, took place during the summer.
Dick said he wanted to try something different that session.
“A lot times when you do work in a class everybody takes their drawings and go home. I thought a mural would be an interesting and meaningful way for students to share their work with the rest of the community,” Dick said.
Since the majority of the population in San Ysidro is of Mexican origin, and muralism is strong in the Mexican tradition, Dick said he thought it would be a good idea to paint a mural.
The goal was to portray violence in a non-violent way, Dick said. The starting point was the July 1984 massacre at a McDonald’s in San Ysidro. Southwestern College Education Center in San Ysidro was built at the site of the massacre, so it had a significant meaning for the campus, Dick said.
The difficult part was the idea stage, he said, where students brought different pictures and drawings of people and events they thought were important in the history of San Ysidro.
In the final mural, which is already adorning the walls of the San Ysidro Education Center, one can see the faces of great heroes of the non-violent movement such as Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Benito Juarez, as well as Mexican artists and writers such as Frida Kahlo and Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz.
“Through their art, the students in this class hope that people of various backgrounds and ethnicities are able to see the unity and prosperity that can exist within a community,” Dick said.
For Benjamin Figueroa, who´s one of the students who worked on the project, the mural represents “a triumph for San Ysidro.”
“It encourages students to keep on striving to improve the community,” said the 27-year-old Sociology major.
The mural also depicts events in history that brought the community of San Ysidro together to build a better future, including the 1984 McDonald’s tragedy, which served as a catalyst for the construction of the SWC Education Center.
Most of the students who worked in the project were too young to remember the event, nevertheless, they know it changed the character of San Ysidro forever, Dick said.
Dr. Angelica Suarez, dean of the San Ysidro Education Center, said that the mural reflects the community the educational center serves.
“It’s amazing that this group of students worked together to remember the values and beliefs of the community,” she said. “They worked very hard. They have left a lasting symbol in the center.”
Suarez said that a new center building is scheduled to be completed in the next two years. She said that the mural will be transferred to the new building.
For María D. Gomez, participating in the mural was a way of discovering her artistic talents.
The 51-year-old mother said the art class made her learn more about herself.
She was even included in the mural as part of one of the people putting their arms together, creating a bridge above the McDonald´s arches.
Dick said he will expand the mural with the work of his new art appreciation class, which is currently enrolled at the Education Center. The new mural will be completed at the end of the Fall semester, he said.
“It adds value to the experience of these students´ educations. It’s a point of pride not only for them, but for their community. It connects them to their own history as well as to other people’s history in a tangible way,” Dick said.
The Education Center at San Ysidro was built in 1988 at the site of the McDonald’s massacre, where 21 people were killed, most of them children. After the tragedy, San Ysidro residents joined the efforts of Southwestern College to build an education center in memory of the victims. A memorial in their honor was built two years later, making the Education Center a true living memorial to those who perished.
The Education Center at San Ysidro is located at 460 W. San Ysidro Blvd.