Faculty Advisor

Williams, Linda K.

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2011


The goal of this project was to explore the ways in which Chicano muralists of the 1970s and 80s used pre-Columbian imagery in their work to express the political consciousness of the Chicano movement.

Having seen the Chicano murals in Seattle that I would include in my study, I began my research by traveling to southern California to observe the remainder of the murals I wanted to include. It was important to me to view the murals in person because one of the characteristics of muralism is its site-specificity, as it often seeks to interact with and transform its environment. This also gave me the opportunity to see how the murals related to one another, as many were located in close proximity to other murals, particularly in the housing complexes of Ramona Gardens and Estrada Courts, as well as Chicano Park. After observing and documenting these murals, I returned to Tacoma, where I began researching the murals themselves, the muralist movement, and the Chicano movement as a whole, in order to gain insight into the use of Indigenist imagery. I found that the artists’ use of such imagery, rather than being a simple appropriation based on aesthetic appreciation of the culture of their ancestors, formed a coded visual language that was used to express the political and cultural consciousness of the movement. The images functioned in specific ways, affirming their belonging to the American continent (contesting their categorization as an immigrant population) and differentiating themselves from dominant Anglo culture.


University of Puget Sound