Artist Lucinda Yrene is focusing a series of six murals in Arizona on the growing need to put humanity before hate and has just finished the first one, a condemnation of children being locked up in detention centers and immigrant families being torn apart.
"We have to put pressure on lawmakers and senators to get those kids out of there. Some of those minors are dying at the hands of ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement)," the Chicano muralist, known as La Morena, told EFE.
The first of her murals, painted on the wall of a law firm in Phoenix and called "Humanity over Hate," measures 12 feet (3.65 meters) high and shows a boy walking along a detention-center wall, over which is seen the giant image of a little girl surrounded by flowers, butterflies and hummingbirds.
"The girl represents the immigrant minors in detention centers...the butterflies coming through the open door symbolize children being set free, and the hummingbirds are the guards," said Yrene, born in Phoenix of Mexican and indigenous descent, about the work she created near the Arizona Capitol Museum.
The six murals will be painted in different cities around Arizona, including Tucson, and are the work of the Colors of the Community project, led by Yrene and in which the pro-immigrant organizations LUCHA and Aliento take part, along with immigration attorney Alex Navidad.
The series should be finished by April 22 next year, a date marking 10 years since state law SB1070 was enacted, the first to criminalize undocumented immigrants in the country and which allows agents to question the immigration status of anyone suspected of being an illegal alien.
Yrene said her inspiration is born of problems that "lacerate" human rights and affect her family, friends and neighbors.
"These people being held in detention centers are not illegal aliens - seeking asylum is not against the law. They're humans like we are but are being given inhumane treatment," she said, adding that the community must get involved and take action.
"I can't be everywhere, but I can use my art to warn and educate people about what is happening so as a united people they can resolve these problems," said the self-taught artist and single mother of three.
She said that her pictures and murals, painted with bright colors and "daring ideas," are charged with "awareness, hope and healing," adding that she finds strength in her "spiritual will" to encourage some action being taken and change effected in the Latino community.
"My goal as a muralist and plastic artist is to stay focused on subjects that raise awareness, educate our community and provide a different perspective to viewers everywhere," said the artist, whose work has mostly been exhibited in Arizona but also in Los Angeles, Detroit and New York.
The artist Diana Calderon, who works with the muralist on the Colors of the Community project, told EFE that they aim to educate and stand up for the community through art.
"We created this kind of support so they don't feel alone, to show them we are united as a community, and so they feel protected against tragedy, because art also heals," she said.
Yrene has worked with the artists Mata Ruda and Gaia on several projects, including "Gateways to Newark," which with its 1.39 miles (2.24 kilometers) is the longest mural on the East Coast of the United States. EFE-EPA bl/cd