|Salvador Roberto Torres|
The distinctive influences of Anglo American and Indo Hispanic bilingual/bicultural experiences, along with the concept of “La Raza” as “humanity” are my sources of spiritual and creative nourishment.
A portion of my artwork is a consequence of my creative participation in the Chicano movement in San Diego, California, inspired by the concepts of human rights and social justice. My vision of the Chicano Park Monumental Public Arts Program evolved from our need for a unique park. A Chicano Park that would provide Barrio Logan and its surrounding communities with open space, indigenous plants, sculpture, and paintings that make up a composition of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge as one monumental mural art statement.
My maestros, Goya, Picasso, and Siquieros, speak my common language. Their technical mastery, imagery, myths, and revolutionary ideals are my creative heritage and imaginative liberation.
SALVADOR TORRES on the creation of Viva La Raza!
This painting originated from a protest against a degrading attitude shown toward Chicanos by the San Diego Gas and Electric Co. (SDG&E) in two ads placed in LIFE magazine in January of 1969. These full page ads showed “great” floodlighted buildings of “rich” San Diego, and placed them alongside of a cartoon of a Mexican wearing a sombrero, botas y bigote at a taco stand with a “Who needs it?” caption. The last line read, “Unless, like some people, you prefer to stay small.” In protest, the Brown Berets and other organizations came together and organized a picket line around the SDG&E building, and shouted “Viva La Raza!”
Subsequently, as I worked on this painting, my coraje y sentimiento (anger and feeling) arose and animated “La Huelga” image (“The Strike” image of the United Farm Workers) in its transformation into a Phoenix rising. My translation of “Viva La Raza!” is “Long Live Humanity!”
Outrage from the Mexican-American Community expressed to SDG&E and Life Magazine, resulted in a letter of public apology to the Mexican-American Federation of San Diego (which later became the Chicano Federation). This letter was published in La Verdad in March 1969.
Denise Bradshaw, who represents Salvador. R. Torres, contributes this note:
Raul Villa, in Barrio Logos (p. 33) makes it clear that the meaning of “La Raza” in the late 1800s and well into the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 70s, represents the Mexicano community’s name for itself, i.e., “La Raza” was adopted by persons of Mexican heritage who were living in California, as a name by which to refer to themselves. Part of Salvador R. Torres’ achievement in painting “Viva La Raza!” is in his vision of applying that phrase to all “Humanity” vs. a narrower definition. And he did this in the midst of El Movimiento, after being jailed on more than one occasion, and beaten. This aspect of the painting Viva La Raza! has not been well understood.
Los Catolicos 1 & 2
These were painted in protest against the Church’s lack of support for the Chicano movement, especially regarding:
= Its failure to support César Chávez and the United Farm Workers in the 1960s and 70s.
= Its favoritism shown in building a new, costly church in a wealthy, Anglo community of Los Angeles while failing to act against poverty and injustice in the barrios.
= Its actions that led to the arrest of six Chicanos when they attempted to transform Camp Oliver in Descanso (a church property in East San Diego County) into a Centro Cultural De La Raza.