A wounded community came together to heal as hundreds turned out at
a recent rally following repeated vandalism of a mural in San
Francisco’s Mission district that depicts gay, transgender, and lesbian
The July 1 rally, held in front of the Por Vida (For Life) mural that is
hosted by Galeria de la Raza at 24th and Bryant streets, brought
together community members and political leaders who denounced the
vandalism, which included defacing it with paint and an effort to burn
The mural, by artist Manuel Paul of the Los Angeles-based Maricon
Collective, shows a gay couple, a transgender man, and a lesbian
The first incident occurred Monday night, June 15. It was discovered
that someone had spray-painted over about half of the piece. The next
night, the mural was again defaced.
The gallery repaired the damage, but the mural was defaced again with
spray paint around midnight Sunday, June 21. On June 29, the mural
was set on fire, damaging a third of it.
Police are investigating the incidents as a hate crime.
San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission,
spoke at the rally after a Latin dance troupe performed a ritual dance.
“It is hard to see from where you are, but the scene from my point of
view of this diverse crowd is truly beautiful,” Campos said.
Campos, who was born in Guatemala in Central America, said he was
closeted until he was 26.
“I know first hand how hard it is to come out to family and friends,
especially in a Latino family, and it is especially hard for a transgender
person who faces more challenges,” Campos, 44, said.
“For me, as a gay Latino man, to go from the incredible high of what
happened in the last few days, with the United State Supreme Court
issuing a ruling supporting same sex marriage. To go from that high to
seeing this – it was a very painful experience,” he said, pointing to the
Campos said that LGBT people are part of every community, and the Mission has always had that queer presence.
“The Mission has always had queer people living here,” Campos said. “It is painful to see this, and it was important for me, not
only as a supervisor, but as a human being, to call this out.”
Gay former state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said he believes that the mural vandalism is deliberate and very provocative, but
he finds it a mystery and he questions where it is coming from.
“It is so deliberate, and it may be a group or individuals who really don’t have a stake in either side, but they want to see a
conflict,” he said.
Ammiano, who lived in the Mission and worked as a teacher in the 1960s, remembers that there were challenges even back then
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living in the neighborhood, “because there were no resources,” Ammiano said. “But it was more like live and let live. And yes,
there was homophobia of course, but there were also lifetime residents and families who lived here who had gay kids, and it was
a different era; much more family oriented.”
Paul, in a statement released by Galeria de la Raza, explained the reason for the mural. “Por Vida was created to celebrate the
LGTBQ Chican@/Latin@culture within the context of a historically Chicano barrio.”
Paul explained using the @ symbol to refer to Chicanos or Chicanas: “Through our art and our work we present counterstories
that reflect queers growing up in the barrio.”
Ani Rivera, Galeria de la Raza’s executive director, thanked the crowd who came to the rally to show their support. A sign with a
printed version of the mural was distributed to attendees. Rivera asked the crowd to raise their signs. The crowd was cheering,
and Rivera leaned forward to the microphone and said, “Por Vida.” The crowd responded by clapping and cheering louder.
After the attacks started, the gallery installed a video surveillance system, which captured footage of the suspect. Last week,
police described the suspect as a white or Hispanic man between 20 and 40 years old, who’s 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 160
pounds. He was wearing a black sweatshirt, black pants, white gloves, and had a black cloth covering his face.
At the rally, gallery officials said they remained determined to support artists.
“Galeria is still committed to supporting Chicano, Latino artists that speak to the wealth of the prescriptive of our own people,”
Rivera said. “It is in that spirit that we invited the Maricon Collective to present the Por Vida mural.”
She also disagreed with the apparent message the vandal or vandals is sending.
“The targeted violence that has been visited upon the mural sent a message that queer Chicano doesn’t exist,” Rivera said. “But
I’m here to tell you we do exist.”
Every time Galeria de la Raza replaced the damaged mural it cost about $1,200. After the arson attempt, the mural will remain in
its burned state, said spokesman Henry Pacheco.
According to Rivera the mural will stay up until the end of July.