City Accidentally Destroys Beloved Mural That Celebrated Puerto Rican Culture

Neighbors are furious after “Es Tiempo de Recordar,” which was painted 26 years ago by a trio of prominent artists, was whitewashed.

The mural, “Es Tiempo de Recordar,” was painted 26 years ago by a trio of artists. It was whitewashed last week by the city. [Photos courtesy of Scott Thompson; John Vergara]

HERMOSA — Neighbors are outraged after the city destroyed a large mural celebrating Puerto Rican culture at Pulaski Road and Bloomingdale Avenue with no input from the artists or local officials.

The colorful mural, “Es Tiempo de Recordar,” was painted 26 years ago by a trio of prominent artists — Sandra Antongiorgi, Marcus Akinlana and Rolf Mueller— in partnership with a group of students. It depicted the art, music and culture of the Puerto Rican community, according to Antongiorgi, who also restored the mural in 2010.

“We asked what [the students] wanted to see, how they wanted to be represented,” she said of the mural.

Last week, city crews whitewashed the mural during a graffiti removal job without notifying the artists, local aldermen or the Chicago Public Art Group, an organization that routinely works with the city on public art projects.

“It’s just so blatantly disrespectful,” Antongiorgi said. “[The mural] was a deep representation of the art, music and history of the Puerto Rican people. It really concerns me because it was of cultural significance in the community.”

The mural depicted the art, culture and music of the Puerto Rican community. [Photo courtesy of Scott Thompson]

Ald. Roberto Maldonado, whose 26th Ward includes part of the mural, echoed Antongiorgi’s sentiment in a Facebook post.

“At a minimum, they should have approached me and the alderman of the 35th ward to discuss the mural like they do for other things,” Maldonado wrote. “I would have invested to restore the mural, there are ways to paint over graffiti as we are doing with other murals in our community.”

Marjani Williams, a spokeswoman for the city’s department of streets and sanitation, said the mural was removed “in error.” She said the city recognizes the importance of public art and remains committed to working with communities to ensure murals are protected during “neighborhood improvement work.”

But Antongiorgi said it’s not enough for the city to apologize. The city needs to create a policy that prevents this from happening again, she said.

“There should be a process when the city or anyone decides to take these down, the community should be involved, the alderman should be involved, the artist should be called,” she said.

The erasure of “Es Tiempo de Recordar” is the latest blow for Chicago’s public art community. Last year, an iconic mural covering the former Casa Aztlan community center in Pilsen was destroyed to make way for a development. In 2015, the famous “All of Mankind” mural covering Northside Stranger’s Home Missionary Baptist Church, the last remnant of Cabrini-Green’s history, was whitewashed. Both happened in changing neighborhoods; with “Es Tiempo de Recordar,” it’s no different, Antongiorgi said.

“[The Hermosa mural] is a couple blocks from The 606. The neighborhood is changing, going through gentrification. I can’t help but tie the two together,” she said.

Sandra Antongiorgi at work restoring the mural in 2010. [Photo courtesy of Scott Thompson]