The ‘raza’ or community of South Omaha is celebrating the impact Mexicans have had on South Omaha with a mural that features Mexicans’ values and traditions.
The mural is one of a ten-mural series local artists are conducting to depict the culture, history and ethnic heritage of all the communities in South Omaha. The mural is located outside of the El Mercado building located on 25th and O streets.
Gary Kasgrick, a South Omaha historian, says the idea came about because he wanted to revitalize the history of the first Mexican settlers who came to Omaha to work on the railways, packing plants, and stockyards.
“A lot of people said well I don’t want to come back down to South Omaha because it’s not my South Omaha. And I said well, what if we had stuff here that represented your old South Omaha with the new South Omaha,” says Kasgrick.
The artists held four community meetings and invited people of all ethnicities to attend and voice what they felt was important to incorporate in the mural. The artists then held four design workshops to design the sketches and host discussions on the tributes that would be incorporate on the 80 by 20 foot wall.
The lead artist, Hugo Zamorano says there were a lot of opinions and important values the community wanted to incorporate.
“There were a lot of ideas being thrown here and there. I wanted to try and include everything that everyone was contributing in the meetings. It’s hard deciding to leave some things out so we’re having to make sacrifices here and there,” says Zamorano.
Richard Harrison, an artist and organizer for the mural, says the artwork is a part of a global movement.
“All across the country people are doing community built artworks that express what the community thinks of itself, where it wants to go, what its history is. We’re connecting people of all kinds together, not just Mexicans,” says Harrison.
The mural features pivotal icons like La Virgen de Guadalipe, an Aztec Warrior, Omaha’s Cinco de Mayo festival, and local leaders from the community. The artists also illustrated a DREAMer graduating with her diploma in hand, stomping on Donald Trump’s head, symbolizing the DREAMers’ challenging path in passing pro-DREAMer legislation.
The South Omaha Mural Project is funded by the Nebraska Arts Council, a grant from Omaha’s mayor, Jean Stothert, the Douglas County Historical Society, the South Omaha Medical Association and the owners of El Mercado Building.
The painting will begin during the Cinco de Mayo festival, where community members will be able to help paint selected parts of the mural.
The mural is expected to be complete at the end of May.