June 3, 2005

Motivating our children through art

Sal Barajas promotes literacy with his designs.

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Salvador ‘Sal’ Barajas believes in the power art has to inspire.

And through his work as a painter, graphic designer, and muralist, Barajas has a clear goal: To inspire children to continue their education while learning about their culture.

“It’s really important to support students, especially Latino students, in their path to graduation from college,” said Barajas, who lives in South Park.

Barajas said he knows that when a child knows his own history and the history of his culture, his self-esteem and desire to succeed grow.

That’s the reason that on April 28, he completed a mural at a local restaurant’s dome, more than 22 feet tall.

The task took him and his son, Sal Jr., about two months to complete.

On that mural, Barajas depicts different aspects of the Mexican state of Jalisco, the craddle of mariachi and tequila.

“If there were more places in San Diego where I could promote Mexican culture I would do it,” Barajas said. “Here they gave me the opportunity to highlight this important region in Mexico.”


Sal Barajas (right) and Sal Jr. below a freshly completed mural.

The dome, or ‘cúpula,’ as it is called in Spanish, is divided into five sections, each one with a cultural theme from Jalisco: 1. charrería; 2. mariachi; 3. haciendas; 4. ballet folklórico; 5. Puerto Vallarta.

Barajas uses colorful images to illustrate each of the themes, such as the beautiful image of an afternoon in Puerto Vallarta’s beaches.

During two months, from February to April, 2005, Barajas worked more than 10 hours a day on this project.

Since it was a gigantic task, he invited his son Sal Jr. to participate as his assistant.

Sal Jr. would commute three days during the week from Los Angeles, where he is majoring in Communication at Cal State L.A.

“I wanted my son to learn about what I do for a living,” Barajas said. “I wanted him to experience the power of art for himself. Although he had never painted, I think it was a positive experience for him.”

For Barajas, his family is the center of his life.

He said that when a child gets solid values and foundations at home, that child is set to succeed.

That’s exactly what Bar-ajas tries to promote through his company, ‘Motivational Designs,’ which sells posters, buttons, and shirts, that promote literacy, diversity, higher education, and heritage appreciation.

Barajas himself draws the images on the posters, that include messages such as “Education is the Key,” “Parents Make a Difference,” “Reading is Fantastic!”, “Read and Succeed,” “Being Bilingual Counts for Two,” and “Education Opens Doors.”

Barajas said his main market are schools, where teachers, students, and parents purchase Motivational Designs products.

It is not surprising to find one of Barajas’ posters in San Diego’s classrooms, since many educators are decorating them with his designs.

“I think that teachers feel that the messages are simple, yet powerful,” he said. “Students can identify with the images on the posters. Also, the messages are written in English and Spanish, promoting bilingualism.”

Barajas is a clear example of motivation and parent involvement.

He was born in the small rural town of Nio, in the northern Mexican state of Sinaloa.

His family moved to Tijuana when he was still a baby. Years later, the Barajas settled in San Diego.

“I was born in the same hut where my father was born, a humble hut, but full of love for our land and for what we are,” he said.

After graduating from college in Los Angeles, Barajas returned to San Diego, where he participated in the struggle for Chicano Park.

In fact, one can see one of Barajas’ murals on one of the park’s walls.

Thanks to a 1.2 million grant from CalTrans, Barajas’ mural, as well as the rest of Chicano Park, will get restored.

Barajas was hired by CalTrans to design and develop a Mural Restoration Manual, which will serve as a how-to guide for mural painting.

Barajas has followed his own advice and motivation and has applied the messages he promotes in his designs to his own family.

His four children have made it to college, and three have graduated from prestigious Californian universities.

His 19-year-old son, Sal Jr., attends Cal State L.A.

“It’s really satisfying to see that what I do for a living goes well beyond than earning money: I know the messages I promote are positive and that if my wife and I were able to send our four kids to college, I know any Latino parent can achieve that as well.”

If you would like to contact Sal Barajas or learn more about Motivational Designs, you can call (619) 236-9421.

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