The 67 Sueños youth and performers
A mural depicting migrant women’s struggle for access to healthcare - organized by 67 Sueños - was unveiled in Oakland Saturday in the Fruitvale Plaza, near the Fruitvale BART station.
The 40-foot by 8-foot mural (comprising of 10 standalone panels) served as a backdrop to dancers who performed a traditional Aztec dance to open the event. Thereafter, women took to the stage to recount stories of struggling for their rights in Oakland.
The mural was painted in recognition of migrant women fighting for access to adequate healthcare in Oakland with the centerpiece depicting a Mayan calendar with two hands supporting it. The left hand represents the importance of cultural and tradition in healthcare and the right hand shows a skeleton with a chain and an iron clasp with the acronym ICE (Immigrations Customs Enforcement).
“This mural is important in assuring that there is less violence,” Maria Leal of Mujeres Unidas y Activas, said.
Leal said she was frequently physically abused by her parents (and later her husband) and did not know where to turn for support.
The words, “I did not have support,” are painted in a banner over a mother, with wings of a monarch butterfly, holding her child. Leal said the piece represented her story. She credits Mujeres Unidas y Activas - MUA - for giving her the help she needed.
“I feel great pride that we are represented in this mural,” she said.
Juan Cuba, an activist working to reduce male violence against women, spoke to the men in attendance.
“The choice to avoid violence is within everyone of us,” he said.
Yoxeli Romero is part of the 67 Sueños youth group and was depicted in the mural being brought by a woman with monarch butterfly wings.
“I migrated … so the butterfly represents all of that,” she said.
Romero and her peers have been involved in a myriad of protests over the past year including a shutdown of the Wells Fargo bank on Broadway and 12th Street for its investment in migrant detention centers. Other actions by the youth include leading the undocumented youth contingent during this year’s May Day protest and taking part in a tax day flashmob.
Pablo Paredes is the group facilitator of 67 Sueños.
“We have a panel here that speak to 12 stories,” Paredes said. “But really, to thousands of stories of undocumented women and what it means to live without status, with inadequate healthcare, with violence (domestic and otherwise), fear, terror from police and ICE.”
“We put it all in the mural, but also their strength, their resistance and most of that is grounded in culture, so we lifted up culture,” he added.
This is the second mural the group has painted in the past two years. The first represented the journey that many migrants endure while traveling from Central America to the United States. Amnesty International said the trip is, “one of the most dangerous journeys in the world.” The mural graces a wall in San Francisco at 65 Ninth St. and was featured in a three part series by Univision 14. It also garnered front-page status in the San Francisco Chronicle.
For this year’s mural, the group fundraised $11,000 throughout the year through an event at La Peña, an Indiegogo crowdfunding page and a 5k run around Lake Merritt, among other events. The funds helped pay for supplies and mural painting internships for approximately 10 undocumented youth from 67 Sueños – most of the youth invovled are young women. Mural artists Xochitl Guerrero and Francisco Sanchez facilitated the painting project. A permanent location for the piece has yet to be determined.
“Every year when we do this, we are conducting an experiment and every year it’s successful,” Paredes said. “The experiment is, instead of doing what the government and society is doing, which is criminalizing and demonizing undocumented people and pushing them into the shadows, we lift up their stories, their voices, to create a paid internship for undocumented youth.
"The result of that experiment of nurturing versus criminalizing is that young people produce beautiful art, the community has a positive space, everybody benefits from that," he added. "So its just like a microcosm for what could happen in this country if we changed our attitude about migration and about undocumented people.”