Cabrillo College Commissions Watsonville-Based Artist Francisco Alonso to Paint Mural Celebrating Cabrillo's Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Status

Cabrillo College is commissioning a Latinx-inspired mural on its Aptos campus by local artist and Cabrillo graduate Francisco Alonso. The mural is part of the College’s ongoing efforts to promote its diverse populace and celebrate its Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) status, and was funded by a grant from the Cabrillo Foundation and Cabrillo College Student Senate. This past Spring, approximately half of Cabrillo College’s graduates were of Latinx heritage, and the college aims to foster a greater sense of belonging for its diverse student body, celebrating Latinx culture and centering Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and their racial, cultural, and linguistic ways of living and knowing.

After a combination of staff, faculty, and students thoroughly reviewed an outstanding ensemble of applicants, Cabrillo leadership selected the artwork of Francisco Alonso. As a Cabrillo College student in the 1990s, Alsonso was involved in Puente and EOPs, and helped establish a MECHA program and bring educational and cultural events focused on healing and overcoming racism. In addition to having lived in Santa Cruz County, Alonso has resided in and traveled across the Americas, and his mural design, entitled “Unity,” integrates imagery that represents ancestral wisdom and knowledge.

The mural will be located on a Cabrillo Aptos campus elevator in front of the 500 building and painting is scheduled to begin in late July.

Artists Bio:

My name is Francisco Alonso I was born into a small purepecha community in Michoacan Mexico in 1975. I come from a lineage of revolutionaries, healers, musicians and artists. Due to political/military persecution, economic inequality, and indigenous discrimination. My father left for the US. in 1974 alone to flee from the Mexican army making this area his new home. The rest of the family joined him in 1986 to become farmworkers in Watsonville. As a result of such conditions I’m the only one in the family out of five siblings that showed interest and continues to learn and practice such traditions with joy and pride except the arm revolution.

My early memories as a child was to observe with curiosity all the shapes and colors in nature and wanting to reproduce them on paper. I was also mesmerized in the colors and textures that were produced in the making of clay pottery in my community. And being so amazed at all the geometric patterns filled with color in the wool tapestries of my village. Looking back at these early childhood memories that I left behind in my hometown but never left my soul helped me in my artistic growth-development.

When I was ten years old I encountered graffiti for the first time from the neighbors in my new town. I was fascinated and eager to learn about this new medium/expression. I was quick to learn at ten years old, and before I knew it I had painted successfully several pieces throughout Watsonville and continued to improve and master this new technique in the eight years to follow. But graffiti got cracked down and persecuted by the police. It also turned into a very dangerous activity because it got infiltrated by gangs and turned into a violent scene. Some of my crew members got murdered or punished with jail and fines.

I got very scared and stopped painting graffiti but luckily one of my graffiti partner’s dad was a legendary Muralist from the Chicano mural art movement. He introduced me to him, Guillermo Aranda, after meeting him we connected deeply through indigenous identity/history. He took me under his wing as an apprentice where I assisted him in painting murals in local schools. From then on I knew that mural/painting was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I committed myself to study the history and art form of mural painting focusing on pre-columbian frescos and its present evolution. In this process I got to meet and collaborate with some of the legendary and original muralists collectives from the Chicano movement, The Chicano Royal Air Force, from Sacramento, Tortuga Border Patrol, from Santa Cruz and central coast, and Toltecas en Aztlan from the San Diego area.

I attended Cabrillo College where I started my formal academic art education and continued into San Francisco State University where I graduated in 2005 with a BA in Visual Arts with an emphasis in painting. During my studies in San Francisco I worked in the ``La Reconstrucion Fresco Studio,” with el maestro, Jose Galindo from Mexico City. He was a third generation muralist from the Mexican Muralist Movement that started in 1920. El maestro Jose Galindo studied under John Hultberg who studied under the great Mexican Muralist, David Alfaro Siqueiros. I also recently found out that Guillermo Aranda, my first mural teacher, studied and worked under Gilberto Ramirez from Mexico City who also studied under David Alfaro Siqueiros. I’ve always been a great admirer of Siqueiros for his polyangular compositions and use of tools to execute murals. And also for being the godfather of graffiti for his great murals techniques. Some of his early murals in the 1930's were painted with a compressor and spray gun instead of using conventional brushes and paints. This took place 20 years before the birth of the spray paint can. With great honor and respect I honor the spirit of Siqueiros in my murals and all my other mentors.

Ever Since I was conscious of my role to develop as an artist I gave myself the opportunity to travel and paint, and learned about other cultures. I travel throughout Europe, North Africa, Asia, The Caribbean Islands, and Latin America. One of my longest artistic journeys was traveling by land and sea throughout Latin America in 2009 moving north to south which lasted four years. During this time I painted everywhere I stayed with people that housed and took care of me. Many of my murals decorated poor neighborhoods with images that depict local cultural indigenous history, heritage and identity.