Along a parking lot where parents pick up and drop off students at Cali Calmecac Language Academy, a once-white wall recently defaced by graffiti invoking Donald Trump’s name is now covered with a vibrant mural celebrating Latino immigrants’ heritage and culture.
Painted mostly over the weekend by local artists and students from Santa Rosa Junior College, the mural was conceived as an empowering response to vandalism that marred the Windsor campus of the bilingual Spanish-language immersion school in late October.
In vivid shades of purple, blue, green and other colors, the mural depicts scenes of creation, indigenous dancers, agriculture and students in the classroom. It covers a south-facing wall where the president-elect’s last name was sprayed in graffiti about two weeks before Election Day.
In that incident, Trump’s name was sprayed across campus buildings, doors, stairways and elsewhere in what many viewed as an offensive and racist act given the school’s educational format, the makeup of its student body and Trump’s incendiary campaign rhetoric. The anti-immigrant message “build the wall higher” was sprayed around the corner from where the mural is painted now.
Cali Calmecac serves kindergarten through eighth grade and teaches in both Spanish and English. About 75 percent of the more than 1,100 students who attend the dual immersion school are Latino, according to Principal Jeanne Acuña.
Acuna said the school community was thrilled by the new mural and its positive message.
“It’s heartwarming. People are just wowed by the generosity,” she said.
Junior college student Alexander Gonzalez Jimenez, a Windsor native who attended Cali Calmecac from kindergarten through sixth grade, helped organize creation of the mural. Gonzalez Jimenez said Cali Calmecac remained like a home to him, and he found the graffiti incident offensive to those who attended the school.
“It hurts us. And attacking the younger generation is like the worst thing you can do,” he said.
So Gonzalez Jimenez and other students from Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanista de Aztlán, or MEChA, reached out to community artists and the school. The main artists involved in the mural were Arturo Monroy, Mario Quijas, Emmanuel Morales, Jiovanny Soto and Everardo Flores, and they were helped by some students from MEChA, Gonzalez Jimenez said.
Most of the mural was finished by Sunday night, but artists still need to apply some finishing touches.
“What we were hoping was to restore the community, in the sense of unity and solidarity, all the while honoring where we are, the land that we’re on and the history,” Morales said of the artists’ intent. “We wanted to come in and connect the students back to their campus.”
Community members from throughout Windsor and beyond also sought to convey an uplifting message in the immediate aftermath of the graffiti in October. Days after the incident, community members stood outside the school holding signs bearing messages of love and support, and students from other schools made signs or sent letters.
Trump’s election has also had an impact on students, said Araceli Perez, a kindergarten teacher’s assistant who works additionally with a range of grade levels via the Mini-Corps program for migrant students.
“They were really scared. Some of them brought up their own stories, their fear of their parents going back to Mexico or something like that. They couldn’t believe that someone so mean could get elected,” said Perez, a Cali Calmecac alum. “But I think the teachers are doing a great job reminding them that it’s going to be OK, or that they have people here to support them. And that’s been good for them.”