The Promised Land: III

Today I am looking at some of the smaller details of the Chirilagua mural. A reminder that what follows is my interpretation of the symbolism in this mural. I don’t know whether it’s what the muralist had in mind.


Various folk art motifs appear in the mural, recognitions of the many cultures that exist in this country. Some are easily recognizable and others not (or not to me). Here I see a shamrock. Beneath it is the Yin Yang symbol (more usually seen turned 90 degrees counterclockwise). It stands for opposing but complementary forces in nature: feminine-masculine, night-day, dark and passive-bright and active—and in this context, perhaps the difference between dream and reality. Under it is what at first sight I saw as having elements of an Ionic capital, but now I think may be a Native American or a pre-columbian symbol. Any ideas anyone?


Here are representations of the types of work many immigrants perform: driving taxis, working in the fields or on construction sites, working as housekeepers and cleaners. Two hands reach for the dove of peace, or perhaps release the dove of peace—in either case the hope is for peace.


This is part of the bottom of the mural, On the left, shackled hands, the symbol of subservience; on the right, the black power salute, a symbol of the fight against subservience. I don’t have even a guess about the two blue diamond shapes over the shackled wrists.

The heart looks to me like a Pennsylvania Dutch motif.

The black cat, its back arched, and the loaf of bread with the roses both stand for activism and the rights of workers. The black cat or wild cat is used as a symbol of radical unions (think wildcat strike) and the loaf and roses represent the 1912 Bread and Roses strike. The work week had been reduced by law to 54 hours per week, and in answer, the mill owners cut wages. Thirty thousand textile workers struck. Some of the women carried signs saying “We want bread and roses too”—not just the basics of existence, but something more.

I see what appear to be roots growing down to the motifs. Perhaps because the country is rooted in these facts and values, among others? What do you think?

More tomorrow.


One Response to The Promised Land: III

  1. Elisabeth says:

    This is a really amazing mural, which I would really love to see in person. Thanks for your very interesting commentary on its many details.

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