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New Springfield Mural Celebrates Latinx Community

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Melorie Begay/KLCC News
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A new mural outside Memos Mexican Restaurant in Springfield is nearing completion. The art celebrates the city’s Latinx community and was inspired by personal stories.

Springfield's Escudo Latino, and members of the Community Alliance of Lane County’s teen program, Citywide Union de Activistas, all helped shape the design of the mural that’s being painted by Esteban Comacho Steffenson. 

 

“People shared really deep stories,” Comacho Steffenson said, “sometimes they just shared symbols or elements from their specific area whther that’s Nayarit, or Oaxaca, or Central America, Guatemala, Costa Rica some people had really difficult experiences, really hard lives, some people really love Oregon.”

 

Comacho Steffenson was born in Costa Rica, but grew up partly in the Eugene-Springfield area. His father’s Costa Rican and his mother is from Springfield. He graduated from South Eugene High School before studying at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, and has painted murals in Oregon, Costa Rica and other places across the globe.

 

He said he likes to include input from youth and the community he’s working with in his projects. He also lets them participate in painting the mural and enjoys being a mentor. 

“I also teach them how to paint and it’s been a way to have really authentic and friendly experiences all around the world,” he said.

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Comacho Steffenson said the project gave him a sense of home while he was away teaching art in China amid a global pandemic. He met with community members over Zoom before returning to Springfield in early July. He’s been working on the mural since then with the help of several youths who’ve painted parts of the installation.

The mural blends diverse Latin American traditions and native plants and flowers with Pacific Northwest landscapes. There’s a family sitting at a table making tamales, a graduate, a member of the military, people enjoying a river, and a strong arm holding out a hand. 

Though the mural celebrates the Latinx community, Comacho Steffenson says he wants to make the mural something that anyone can relate to.

“Anybody from Oregon can identify with images of family, of our roots, of our forests,” he said. “So many different people came up with different ideas and made my perspective of what it means to be Latino richer because I do agree with a lot of their stories, so it just made a richer story of what it means to be from Springfield,” he said. 

There’s a scene with a woman picking fruit from a tree while a child sits on a blanket nearby, and there’s a logger scaring a cougar away. Comacho Steffenson says these depictions are supposed to represent the labor intensive jobs that many in the Latinx community do, often with little acknowledgement.

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“This mural celebrates our diverse culture, but also we really want people to [know] there’s a hard working Latino community that are doing some of the more dangerous jobs in lumber mills, on the ground, in orchards and farms,” he said.

Comocho Steffenson said it’s important for people to see themselves reflected in murals, especially Latino youth including those who contributed to the project.

“We have this rich history that we can be proud of, of Mexican and so many Latin American artists, and we have the support of the city and different art organizations [in Springfield] and in Eugene,” he said. 

 

The mural was sponsored by CALC and CALC’s Springfield Alliance for Equity and Respect (SAfER) and Escudo Latino. The City of Springfield, the Lane County Cultural Coalition, the Oregon Arts Commission, Pacific Source, the Rotary Club of Eugene, and individual donors helped support the project.

A celebration event featuring mural tours, music, poetry, and ice cream will be held Aug. 1 from 4-6p.m. outside Memos Mexican Restaurant in Springfield.

Copyright 2021 KLCC

Melorie Begay is a multimedia journalist for KLCC News. She was the Inaugural KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She has a bachelors in Multimedia Journalism from the University of New Mexico. She previously interned at KUNM public radio in Albuquerque, NM and served as a fellow for the online news publication New Mexico In Depth.