EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing CALÓ NEWS series on the state of hate in LA and California. If you are an expert on the subject, a victim, an activist, or community leader, please contact us at brenda@latinomedia.org. To follow the series, click here.

Late last month, LA vs. Hate, the self-desribed “community-based system” launched by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations in 2020, revealed a new mural celebrating the Latino communities of Southern California. LA vs. Hate was created by the county to track hate crimes and incidents and offer support to victims of hate, The mural is located in El Monte and was part of the city campaign called “Summer of Solidarity,” a public art series that celebrates the diversity of LA and unity against prejudice and discrimination.

The mural titled “Come Walk with Me” was painted by Kiara Aileen Machado, a self-described contemporary artist born in Lynwood. Machaso obtained her bachelor’s degree in painting and drawing from California State University Long Beach. She told CALÓ NEWS that her art explores the structures and liberation of identity, femininity and culture. Her artwork has been seen in museums across the United States, including the South Gate Museum (California), Buckham Gallery (Michigan), Dupont Underground (Washington DC), John and Geraldine Lilley Museum (Nevada), and the UCF Art Gallery (Florida). 

The mural was created by Los Angeles artist Kiara Aileen Machado, who obtained her bachelor’s degree in painting and drawing from California State University, Long Beach. Photo courtesy of Jade Blairs.

El Monte

The city of El Monte has one of the highest Latino populations, with 72% of the city being Latino and 18% Asian. “This beautiful mural reflects the vibrant and diverse communities and cultures that call El Monte home,” said El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona.

The experiences and voices of the Latino community took center stage when it came to the design of the mural. Workshops were hosted with the El Monte community to guide the exploration of Latino identity.

Machado said that the different images that make up the mural all represent, in one way or another, a key metaphor that emerged from the workshops. “The unity and affection of El Monte is like the sweetness of “pan dulce” and the warmth of “tamalitos” from Valley Mall,” she said.

A mural for Latinos 

“This mural is a journey through the El Monte community that is inspired by past and present stories of culture, unity and pride,” Machado said. 

With this metaphor in mind, the artist conveyed some of the things brought to her by the Latino community—what they wanted to see and the messages they wanted to convey to Latinos and other people who would come across the mural. Images of culturally relevant foods like “pan dulce” and Chinese mooncakes, as well as corn, fruit and banana leaf-wrapped tamales, are painted on the left side of the mural. Mexican, Central American and Asian communities that call El Monte home are also represented in a children’s playground depiction. 

El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona. Photo courtesy of Jade Blairs.

Symbolizing comfort and unity, the mural also depicts two older women exchanging a hug. In the center of the mural, a rainbow tent represents local farmers market vendors. As one’s eyes move throughout the mural, the rainbow tent becomes the dress of a drag performer. In the background, people are holding signs that evoke the memory of El Monte’s historic unity against hate. 

The mural was created in partnership with Latino-driven organizations such as the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), as well as Ancona and the offices of LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who has been an ongoing advocate for Latinos and anti-hate initiatives.

Solis, who resides in the city of El Monte, was present at the mural unveiling ceremony. “I am proud to join today’s mural unveiling and reinforce my continued call on hate having no place here or anywhere in our County,” Solis said. “It is truly thrilling to see our community of El Monte coming together to celebrate an impactful artwork that speaks to our diversity and to prove that there is strength and beauty in it.”

LA Supervisor Hilda Solis, Latinos and Hate

Leaders of LA vs Hate and Solis have a long history of working together to protect the Latino community from hate incidents and crimes. In 2018, Solis helped push for the creation of LA vs Hate. “The LA County Board of Supervisors passed a motion by Solis to protect vulnerable communities in LA County from hate crimes. Included in the motion was a direction for the Commission on Human Relations to create and launch a multi-year public outreach anti-hate campaign,“ as stated on the LA County Human Relations Commission website

Robin Toma, Executive Director of the LA County Commission on Human Relations, was also present at the mural ceremony. He told the crowed that it is important to acknowledge that Latinos have been part of the city’s past and present and also that they will be an integral part of the future. “We [LA County Human Relations Commission] track hate crimes and we know that so many people of Latino descent have been targeted for hate crimes. In fact, it’s one of the groups most targeted by hate in LA County,” Toma said. 

Latinos are the second group most targeted by hate in California. 

The mural was unveiled at a time when hate-related incidents and crimes are at an all-time high, especially in LA County. A new report released in June by the office of California’s attorney general and the California Department of Justice stated that hate crimes in the state have had a 20% surge, from 1,763 hate crimes in 2021 to 2,120 in 2022. 

Throughout the entire state, LA County had the highest number of hate crimes recorded (857 hate crimes, including 609 in the city of LA). The same report revealed that hate crime events involving a racial bias overall increased 11.4 percent from 1,165 in 2021 to 1,298 in 2022. Latinos were the second group most targeted (265 hate crimes reported) after Black or African Americans (743 hate crimes reported).  

Despite the rain, Latinos and their families attended the Sept. 30 mural unveiling. Photo courtesy of Jade Blairs.

When talking about the mural, Solis said its significance was greater since it was unveiled during Latino Heritage Month. “This mural encapsulates all of that. This is what our vision is for the County of LA,” she said. Solis also uplifted the Latino immigrant community in LA County, which is made up of approximately 4.9 billion people. “So many families have immigrated here. I, as a daughter of immigrants, hija de una Mexicana and Nicaraguense, pero se encontraron aquí en LA,” Solis said. “They make our lives better for all of us.”

Mayor Arcona also reiterated her support and excitement for the mural that honors the Latino community and said El Monte was proud to unveil this mural that stands against hate in favor of love and solidarity. “In a world where hate seems to be on the rise, we must be the voice that speaks up against it,” Ancona said. “As we unveil this mural today, let this be a reminder that the fight against hate is not a one-time event but an ongoing commitment, a commitment to educate ourselves and others and to support those who have been targets of hate. Let this mural inspire us to be the change we wish to see in the world.”  

For the LA vs Hate: Summer of Solidarity calendar of events, visit lavshate.org/community-events-calendar.

NOTE: CALÓ NEWS is committed to reporting on hate crimes related to Latinos, from victims to perpetrators to change makers. If you or your organization would like to share your expertise regarding hate crime prevention in Los Angeles and Southern California, please contact Brenda Fernanda Verano at brenda@latinomedia.org.

Brenda Fernanda Verano is a journalist born in Mexico and raised in South Central, LA. Verano is a two-time award winner in the California College Media Association Awards. At CALÓ News, she covers...