Murals are a way of enshrining history and enforcing narrative, of providing voice to the unspoken. Gilberto Guzman’s mural is no exception (“Fighting for ‘Multi-Culturalism,’ “ Feb. 16).
In bold strokes, it tells the moving story of New Mexico, of indigenous subjugation and resilience, of polycultural fusion. The mural beautifully depicts the unique character and style that the Hispanic culture brought to Northern New Mexico, the gaiety, dancing, music, laughter, respect for the elderly, love of family and community.
It is a weathered mural; it has seen better days. But for Northern New Mexicans, its power is undeniable. It tells a bold and important story in such a way that its very substance — baked and frozen and faded from thousands upon thousands of days in the open air — becomes part of its message.
To say it cannot be saved and restored is not true: Da Vinci’s Last Supper mural began to deteriorate two decades after it was painted, was repeatedly restored and survives today. Because monks had protected the mural with sandbags, it survived the impact of a 4,000-pound bomb dropped 80 yards away during a 1943 allied bombing raid on Milan. With commitment and planning, this Guzman mural can survive a remodel.
Now, with its proposed removal for the construction of an important new modern art museum, the Guzman mural tells a new story. It is one in which the truths of our past can be safely discarded. It tells the tale of a state giving up its responsibilities through the rationalization of newness; it tells the tale of forgetting, in which a mural with its origins in Santa Fe’s tumultuous 1980s, where the tension between what came before and what came next was laid bare, can now be lost — replaced with something contemporary and modern (“State should find way to preserve mural,” Our View, Jan. 5).
At some point we, as Santa Feans, must ask ourselves if that’s the story we want told, especially when we well know both the old and the new can peacefully coexist.