A mural project was approved for installation at a City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board meeting Thursday to spread cultural awareness of Indigenous peoples. The new mural will be an image of an indigenous sun stone calendar and will be a permanent addition to Barrios Unidos Park in the Nuestro Barrio neighborhoods.
The mural will be painted on a concrete platform amphitheater in the park that is used for small performances in the area.
The proposal was presented by Director of Phoenix’s South Division, Esther Avila, who explained the mural’s importance and the positive effect it can have on the surrounding community.
“It supports the reintroduction and the regeneration of ancestral sacred knowledge and is an instrument of science and culture well recognized for its mathematical and astronomical precision,” said Avila.
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Board members unanimously approved the mural installation, with some voicing their immense support.
Board member, Dorina Bustamente, made the first motion of approval at the meeting.
“I not only would like to make a motion to approve, but I just want to commend the city and staff with this brilliant collaboration with Tonatierra,” said Bustamente.
The Parks and Recreation staff received a proposal for the mural in early September from the Nuestro Barrio AZ and Tonatierra community development institutes. Tonatierra works to create and sustain a cultural embassy for Indigenous peoples that supports Indigenous community development initiatives in Phoenix.
Board member, Masavi Perea, made the second motion and thanked the development institutes.
“I want to thank Tonatierra for all the amazing work that they are doing in the community. I’ve known Tonatierra probably since I got into Phoenix like 25 years ago, and they are always with the community,” said Perea.
Now, Tonatierra is working with a local artist, AJ Larson, to design and install the mural in the park.
Larson will paint the mural by utilizing traditional, cultural and scientific methods of the Yankwik Mexikayotl: A movement that seeks to reclaim, preserve and advance Indigenous heritage. The mural is designed to capture and depict the scientific observations of an Indigenous Peoples sun stone calendar.
“I’m behind this movement a hundred percent because if there is any chance to help bring awareness to this lost and forgotten neighborhood.. I’m with it, “ Larson said in an interview.
Larson is also working on this project alongside Tonatierra and the local community free of charge.
“Doing things for free to help out a greater cause is priceless,” said Larson.
The project also received immense support from the surrounding community and other local businesses through letters and 114 signatures of community support that were referenced at the meeting.
Avila added that she spoke with the 8th District’s Councilman, Carlos Garcia, and that he was in support of the project as well.
The proposal to approve the mural’s installation was brief and received with praise from the Park and Recreation Board’s Chair, Tony Moya.
“To staff and to the group that put this together, kudos and congratulations. I’ve been on this board for quite a while now and this has to be one of the best ones,” said Moya in reference to the presented proposal.
The City of Phoenix built Barrio Unidos park in 1984 and the surrounding areas’ history dates back to the early 1900s.
According to a Hispanic Historic Property Survey, residents of Mexican and Native American descent experienced growing prejudice, discrimination and segregation as the communities grew within the Phoenix area during this time.
“This installation is more than just a mural, it’s a symbol, and it’s really respecting the original people of this land and their elders … ,” said Bustamente.
Avila said that Barrios Unidos park has a long history of providing a friendly space for the general public to enjoy various activities. The park offers amenities such as grills, a picnic area, a playground, restrooms, a volleyball court and the Barrios Unidos Recreation Center in addition to the concrete amphitheater.
Barrios Unidos park is open from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., but the recreation center is currently closed.