Since 1992, Por La Raza has been a hallmark of the Holly neighborhood in East Austin. Despite its iconic stature — and prominent placement near the now decommissioned Holly Street Power Plant — the mural fell into disrepair. Now, thanks to a community effort led by the mural's two original artists, Por La Raza has undergone a major renovation, ensuring its survival for a new generation of Austinites.
As part of phase one of the Holly Shores Master Plan, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department worked with Art in Public Places to identify the murals of historic significance and salvage those first. Por La Raza was the first mural slated to undergo the restoration process.
Por La Raza, which tranlates to "for the race," was originally one of a series of murals that ran along the wall of the power plant. At its inception nearly three decades ago, muralists Robert Herrera and Oscar Cortez created a masterful piece invoking the spirit of Mexico complete with Aztec gods, the Mexican flag, and imagery evocative of the neighborhood's rich Chicano heritage.
Over the years, however, the paint faded and large portions of the piece were tagged over with grafitti. Then, in November 2017, Arte Texas, a community organization that connects veteran artists and muralists with up-and-comers, took over the process of restoring Por La Raza. “This mural represents the strength of our people and serves as a cherished cultural expression of our survival as Mexican Americans and Chicanos,” said Bertha Delgado, founder and executive director of Arte Texas, in a release.
As part of Arte Texas' work, the group — which includes Herrera and Cortez — focuses on "preserving, restoring, and celebrating the murals of street art and public painting from the heart and soul of East Austin," according to their mission statement.
In keeping with the Arte Texas mission, the veteran artists commissioned younger creatives to help in the restoration process, assigning them each a panel in the mural. "Under Herrera’s leadership, the youth were instructed on the process of mural painting and its history and significance in the Mexican-American tradition," the City of Austin's Art in Public Places explained in a release.
With the project complete, the mural is now ready for public view. But, since this is Austin and when we can throw a party, we make it our business to do so, the city is hosting an official free, public event on July 21, from 11 am-1 pm at 2215 Riverview St. in celebration of Por La Raza. No need to RSVP, and all are invited.