‘A place of honor’: New La Casa murals celebrate Latin American cultures

Two wall murals at La Casa Cultural de Julia de Burgos will be commemorated during a special program this week.
A mural in La Casa’s kitchen celebrates the diverse Latin American Indigenous communities as they share traditional foods.

A mural in La Casa’s kitchen celebrates the diverse Latin American Indigenous communities as they share traditional foods. (Photos by Allie Barton)

Two new wall murals at La Casa Cultural de Julia de Burgos, Yale’s Latine cultural center, will be commemorated at a special program on Wednesday, April 24.

One of the murals, located in La Casa’s kitchen, celebrates the diverse Latin American Indigenous communities in a rendering of people sharing traditional foods around a long outdoor table in a serene country setting. The collaborative project was led by Rebecca Sosa-Coba, a Yale College junior and a La Casa peer liaison. Zoe Cire, a visual artist and student at Yale School of Art, was hired to provide technical assistance.

The mural reflects the vibrant and inclusive spirit of La Casa, highlighting themes of identity, connection, and shared experiences within the Yale community,” Sosa-Coba said.

A mural honoring the center’s founding by Puerto Rican students, featuring a vejigante mask and a plantain tree.
A mural honoring the center’s founding by Puerto Rican students includes a traditional Puerto Rican vejigante mask and a plantain tree.

The other mural, located in a room within the center that is used by the Despierta Boricua student organization, honors the center’s founding by Puerto Rican student activists. La Casa commissioned Danielle De Jesus ’21 M.F.A., a New York City artist whose work is centered on the Puerto Rican diaspora, for that project. She was putting the finishing touches on the artwork, which incorporates all four walls, just last week.

I wanted to make this a welcoming spot for Puerto Rican students, to make them feel at home, whether they grew up in Puerto Rico or in the diaspora,” said De Jesus, who herself was immersed in Puerto Rican culture growing up in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn.

A trompe-l’oeil painting of the iconic painted door in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A trompe-l’oeil painting of the iconic painted door in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

De Jesus’s mural features a trompe-l’oeil painting of an iconic arched colonial door in Old San Juan that has been variously painted over the years to reflect local feelings of national identity. She recreated the door as it is currently: painted with a black-and-white rendering of the Puerto Rican flag to express feelings of anti-colonial resistance.

Elsewhere in the room are colorful depictions of a plantain tree, a flor de maga bloom (the Puerto Rican national flower), and a coquí, a tiny frog native to the island.

The La Casa building is an easily recognizable presence on Crown Street due to its two vibrant, colorful exterior murals. Both of those murals, and one in the second-floor library, were led or co-led by graduate students from the Yale School of Art (YSA), said Eileen Galvez, an assistant dean of Yale College and director of La Casa. The two new interior murals continue that partnership — both were planned with expert input from Meleko Mokgosi, director of graduate studies in painting and printmaking at YSA, and Maria de Los Angeles, assistant director in painting and printmaking.

The indigenous Taíno peoples’ symbol for a coquí, a frog native to Puerto Rico.
The indigenous Taíno peoples’ symbol for a coquí, a frog native to Puerto Rico.

It was wonderful how quickly it all came about,” said de Los Angeles. “It was very fluid and very organic.”

The event on Wednesday, “Muraling Cultures and Histories of Latinidad at Yale,” begins at 5:30 p.m. with an artist talk by De Jesus at the Yale School of Art (353 Crown Street, C220). The viewing of the murals and a reception at La Casa will follow.

De Jesus (who also has a painting in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York) said she began the La Casa project thinking it would consist solely of the flag door. But her vision quickly expanded, as she sought to drench the bland room in tropical colors. She also hit upon the idea of a photo wall, where students could put up photos of beloved family members.

She held a workshop to show them how to do photo transfers onto small pieces of wood to create more of a washed out, vintage look. A smattering of those photos is on one wall now, but De Jesus envisions that piece of the mural as an ever-changing work in progress.

I wanted the students to have a place to honor their ancestors that have guided them to this space,” she said. “And I hope that years from now, I will come back and the wall will be so full that they won’t know where to put anything else.”

Share this with Facebook Share this with X Share this with LinkedIn Share this with Email Print this

Media Contact

Bess Connolly : elizabeth.connolly@yale.edu,