Arts & Entertainment

Formerly censored mural speaks volumes about LA's history

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Once censored and hidden from view, artist Barbara Carrasco's 80-foot mural, "L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective," is part of the the new exhibit, "Sin Censura: A Mural Remembers LA," at the Natural History Museum.

The colorful painting tells the history of Los Angeles from prehistoric times to the year it was painted in 1981.

“They said, the last black slave in LA... Why do Blacks want to be reminded of the last Black slave in LA?” Carrasco said. “And I said, she was a very inspirational person… She read the California law against slavery and took them to court and won her freedom. To me, she was a very important person in early L.A. history.”

Ultimately, the Community Redevelopment Agency that initially commissioned the mural decided that some of those images were considered too controversial at the time. The sprawling, vibrant mural was placed in storage.

Carrasco’s work encompasses many angles of the L.A. experience through the centuries.

“In this mural, what she has done is create an homage to those forgotten, marginalized people who are often left out of the history books,” added the museum's history chair, Dr. William Estrada. “There is the experience, the contributions, and the struggles of Native Americans, of Mexicans, African Americans, Japanese Americans, Chinese Americans, of immigrants, of women.”

In almost 40 years, the mural has only been shown to the public twice before. Now, it will be three times.

BARBARA CARRASCO: When the mural was at Union Station… and a Japanese man said, 'You’re the artist?' And I said, 'Yeah.' And he hugged me and said, 'Thank you for including that scene of the internment camps. I was there as a little boy.' It was real emotional and it was like, the reason that I do what I do. It’s hard to explain the rewards for doing this kind of mural because it definitely is not monetary.   

WILLIAM ESTRADA: This is certainly a sad story to see the old red cars piling up there because... Los Angeles once had the finest public transportation system in the world. And now we’re trying to bring it back. Now we realize we’re such a linear city. The biggest challenge for people in Los Angeles is how to get from here to there. So now we’re trying to reinvent something that we actually had working.

Each vignette takes the viewer through a different snapshot of Los Angeles history, but you'll have to visit the Natural History Museum to see all 43 panels. Here's a few to get you started: 











"Sin Censura: A Mural Remembers LA" opens today and runs through August at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.