Residents distraught after popular mural honoring Latino culture in Houston is painted over
HOUSTON - The local Latino community is mourning the loss of a longtime mural honoring their contributions.
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The washateria at 2216 Airline Dr. looks like another whitewashed business in the Houston Heights, but not long ago one of its walls displayed a colorful mural painted in the early '90s by two students from what was then Reagan High School.
It memorialized local Latino culture and also honored "Pancho Claus" who gives out thousands of presents each year to underprivileged children. The mural was recently painted over.
"It makes me a little emotional that it’s gone," says local artist Francisco Tijero. "He’s been a beacon for a lot of us."
Richard Reyes who takes on the "Pancho Claus" personality throughout the year says he isn’t bitter about it.
"Of course it’s disappointing and sad, but change is inevitable. It’s a private building, and that area of town is doing a lot of constructing and deconstructing," says Reyes. "I’m sad, but it was [sic] 30 years there. It had a good run."
On social media, many say that they feel their Chicano history is being gentrified, and it's not the first time.
Also in the ‘90s, the side of the Firestone building on Harrington Blvd. in the East End was covered with a mural honoring one of the first Mexican-American female accordion players.
"One day I passed by, and it wasn't there anymore," says Linda Alonzo Saenz, granddaughter of Ventura Alonzo who was honored with the mural in 1996.
She and her husband’s band, Alonzo y sus Rancheros, was well known throughout Houston in the 1940s and ‘50s.
Saenz says investors are buying up Houston property with no plans to preserve their culture.
"Before you paint over it, you should probably find out from the community, why is this mural there?" she said. "Why did somebody paint it and think it was important enough to put it on the side of a building?"
The Houston Avocado Real Estate Company bought the building on Airline where the Pancho Claus mural was covered. FOX 26 reached out to them repeatedly for comment.
Operations manager Susie Flores said she had attempted to reach her brother and the owner, Alex Flores, but at the time of this writing, she stated she had not heard back.
In the meantime, local artists are looking for a new building where they can recreate the lost painting and put it somewhere where Houston’s Hispanic heritage won't get erased. Additionally, he says the project is in the early stages but hopes it will come together soon.
"We need to find the resources and the people that are going to make it come back to fruition," said Tijero.