An artist whose historical mural in East San Jose was destroyed spoke out for the first time Sunday, saying when he heard the wall was painted gray, he knew it would be a blank canvas for graffiti artists.
He was right.
The mural, which depicted several Latino historical figures, used to decorate the old Payless Shoe Source building and was painted over sometime last week, sparking a community uproar because it was done without first notifying the artist or the community.
Within days, the blank gray wall became a target, just as artist Jose Meza Velasquez predicted.
Velasquez painted the mural back in 1985 as a cultural project for the now-defunct East Side Youth Center. It cost $25,000 back then, and his labor and many of the supplies were donated. If commissioned today, the mural would cost more than $825,000, he said.
But the mural meant so much more than just its monetary value. Velasquez and his wife say it was an important history lesson for everyone and brought people together.
"This is very important because it's not only for the community and Hispanics; it's for all the communities," Velasquez said.
Juanita Velasquez added: "It tears into the people's spirit, and it tore into this community in a bad way."
California law requires that artists be notified before their work is moved or destroyed. Velasquez said for him to reproduce any part of it, the mural site would have to be protected, and that probably won't happen.
Many believe the new owners of the building were responsible for painting over it, but the city is struggling to figure out who the owner is.