In 1932 in Depression-era Los Angeles, Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros took advantage of a unique site on Olvera Street to confront Los Angeles’s establishment on behalf of not only Mexican Americans in California but the proletariat everywhere. The resulting mural, América tropical, challenged Los Angeles’s sanitized history of its Mexican past and the persecution of the city’s immigrant working class. The establishment responded by requesting that Siqueiros leave the country and by whitewashing the mural. In the late 1960s, the white overpaint began to fade, and América tropical re-emerged to play a part in another chapter of the politics of race and class in Los Angeles. Revisiting the mural and its destruction illuminates the complex interplay between outdoor art and civic discourse.

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