Collaborative mural pays homage to indigenous roots

Courtesy photo A 22 x 22 feet mural was a collaborative design intended to demonstrate that the U.S.-Mexico border affects the Kumeyaay Nation while also honoring the native community

MAAC Community Charter School unveiled a mural on June 2 that depicts border life in pre-Columbian times and the connection to the local land.

The 22 x 22 feet mural was a collaborative design by MCCS, Kumeyaay tribal elders, artists Hector Villegas and Gabriel Romo, MACC Executive Vice President & Chief Impact Officer Lisette Islas, MCCS Director Tommy Ramirez, Hector Villegas, Director of Kumeyaay Community College and Santa Isabel Tribe Tribal Council member Dr. Stanley Rodriguez, and Blue Shield Promise Health Plan Community Engagement Manager Ale Ricardez.

Artists Hector Villegas and Gabriel Romo painted the mural, with help from some students from the charter school.

MCCS Director Tommy Ramirez said MCCS has been in Chula Vista since 2001, was built in a warehouse area and that the building lacked character, so when it was built, it needed beautification work, and the south side of the building was a wonderful opportunity to work with its students to highlight the local community and its history.

“We are a critical pedagogy school and what that is, is we do project-based learning,” he said. “The projects are supposed to be tied to what is going on in the community. Working with Blue Shield which is doing many projects throughout the state around youth mental health, and it is funding murals throughout the state and in the county. We were fortunate enough to get one of the grants to paint a mural on the side of the building.”

Ramirez said with this mural, they wanted to celebrate, highlight, and educate around border life, and this is the second mural that the school has done. He said the first mural is about contemporary border life, and the newly unveiled mural is about border life before the border was built.

“Really honoring the indigenous, the native people from this land, the Kumeyaay,” he said. “It is a celebration of life, but murals can also inspire people to see themselves, to motivate change, conversations and dialogs on what is happening in the community. As a school, we wanted to make sure our students and staff understood that the border is not just affecting Mexican Americans, Chicanos, Chicanas, but that the border separates the Kumeyaay Nation. Many San Diegans do not fully understand that, including our students.”

Ramirez said students understand about Mexico and the separation of families, but not the separation of the Kumeyaay Nation and the effects on their community. He said about a dozen students participated in painting the mural, learning from the artists, their art teachers.

“Actually, getting their hands dirty and working with the mural they had a lot of fun,” he said. “With the funding we were also able to give them gift cards for their experience. As a school, we have done many events, but never a full mural unveiling. That was the last surprise we gave them, that they were the ones that actually pulled the ropes to unveil the mural to the community.”

Ramirez said it held a whole assembly outside of the high school, all the staff, our teachers, partners, and community members. He said at the school, it does a lot of community development and has worked with different Kumeyaay leaders and elders throughout the decades.

“We invited Dr. Stan Rodriguez who has done an assembly at our school before,” he said. “We asked him to come and speak about Kumeyaay, border life, and the images that you see on that mural. He spoke in Spanish to our students as well, as many of them are still learning English. He talked about the history of this area, what the border has done, and then he talked about the details of the images the artists put on the mural.”

MCCS is located at 1385 Third Avenue. For more information visit