A walk down Trousdale Parkway is filled with new vibrant colors and art thanks to the banners featuring artwork by local artist Pola Lopez in celebration of Latinx Heritage Month. For the first time in USC history, banners that represent all 25 Latinx countries and feature symbolic images, ranging from ancient artifacts to a portrait of civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, hang above USC’s historic walkway.
La CASA partnered with University Communications to produce seven original art pieces that embodied the diversity within the Latinx community and unveiled them Wednesday afternoon at Tommy Trojan, where 50 attendees listened and enjoyed the Latinx music.
Billy Vela, director of La CASA, told the audience that the organization invited students in the Latinx community to present aspects of their culture before selecting and pitching concepts to the artist during a seven-to-eight month process.
“This has been a long time coming, based on the shoulders and hard work of our ancestors … [and] all the other marginalized communities,” Vela said. “At this time politically in our country, it is imperative that we really know each other, and more importantly, that we actually respect one another because every culture and every [group of] people have amazing things to offer.”
Lopez organized the students’ concepts to create seven pieces depicting Mesoamerica, indigenous people and the civil rights movement La Causa. Two paintings reflected the 25 flags of Latin America, unified with the statement somos todos un pueblo (“we are all one community”).
“[Lopez] really did encompass everything it means to be a person of Latinx descent,” said Yocelyn Pina, a freshman majoring in architecture. “In particular, I really love the one showing Latinos graduating and their parents because it really is, for many Latinx students, such a struggle and a monumental moment in their lives being able to get an education and being able to get support while getting that education.”
During the unveiling, event planners like Winston Crisp, the vice president for student affairs, and David Galaviz, associate vice president of local government relations, and student staff members Diana Greer and Xavier Hernandez spoke about the significance of the banners.
“It’s a very big moment to have this year at USC, to have our culture displayed in the middle of campus right next to Tommy Trojan,” Hernandez said. “I’ve never been part of something like this or seen something like this on campus. To have a voice where we can see a lot of the input that we put on campus, to see people we actually know [on the banner], to see unsung heroes not everybody knows but will know is going to be a very, very beautiful journey.”
While pins with miniature versions of the artwork were distributed, Latin fusion dance team Break on 2 performed as part of the celebration. Andrea Porras Portillo, the team’s president and a senior majoring in communication, said events like the banner unveiling and her group’s performance help make the Latinx community more visible on campus.
“It creates an interest in our culture, in our dances, in our music, in our art and in our people that I think is really essential to create a culture of diversity and inclusion,” she said.
Avaion Ruth, a freshman majoring in health and human sciences, said the banners make Latinx culture more visible at USC.
“When you go outside to L.A., there’s so much Latino culture, but when you get on campus, it’s a lot more whitewashed, so I think it’s definitely important that we’re not erasing the culture that’s around USC,” Ruth said. “I think it’s amazing to walk down [Trousdale] and look up and see people who have skin like mine.”