When he got the chance to add his art to a three-story-high building on 18th Street in the heart of Pilsen, artist Mauricio Ramirez says he felt compelled to create something that would have lasting effect.
“I think public art should always be loud and proud. It should be bold, it should really enhance people’s lives that live within the community,” Ramirez said. “And when I was approaching this, I wanted to create a piece of work that spoke to the community directly by creating a homage to the Aztec eagle warrior murals in the past, but also kind of create some sort of Aztec hero.”
The mural depicts three male figures spanning the side of 1541 W. 18th St.
“I ultimately wanted to show an evolution of how young boys kind of look up to their older siblings or cousins, and those siblings look to their older uncles or dads – you have youth, 5- to 6-year-old kid looking up to a bigger teenager, early 20s male figure, and then that figure is looking up to the final form, the hero form.”
The placement of a mural with a strong culturally Mexican theme in Pilsen was no accident for Ramirez.
“Pilsen is changing and there's a lot of weird things that are happening, like gentrification’s one,” he said. “I feel like for every, like, vape shop that opens up in like a community, there should be some sort of cultural, historical piece to kind of counteract it.”
Pilsen’s famously vibrant mural culture inspired Ramirez to raise his game when it came to this prominently-placed work.
“You can't come here to this specific part of town and create something that’s very mediocre. There’s a lot of talent here and if you have the opportunity and the privilege to create something this large, I think you should be creating some of the best work you possibly can,” Ramirez said. “I think that’s what makes this city so beautiful, is that we have so much talent here that could really go at any point, in the moment, to create something beautiful, and I just feel honored to be part of that movement.”