In Chicago’s Mexican-American communities, murals and mosaics are commonplace, many depicting spiritual figures, Bible stories, and the Day of the Dead.
But one place stands out. Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, 1852 W. 22nd Pl., features a number of religious-themed mosaics created in the early 2000s.
One, at Cermak Road and Wolcott Avenue, depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe on top with images of students and symbols of the school’s mission.
An alternative name for Jesus’ mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe is said to have appeared to the native Mexican Saint Juan Diego in 1531. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe can be seen around Pilsen and Little Village in the doors, storefronts and other places.
Chicago artists Cynthia Weiss and Juan Angel Chavez designed the Cristo Rey mosaic, choosing Our Lady of Guadalupe because it is “so important in the cultural life of Mexican families,” Weiss says.
Chavez also worked with Chicago artist Jeff Zimmermann on several mosaics on the West 22nd Place side of the school. He says the works represent the traditions of the Jesuit religious order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Zimmermann also created a giant mural at Cullerton Street and Ashland Avenue depicting the Rev. Charles Dahm of nearby St. Pius V Church, 1901 S. Ashland Ave., baptizing a child.
Another vibrant mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe — started by Miguel A. Del Real in 2017 but still in progress — spans the side of a building at Cullerton and Wood streets near Pilsen.
“It’s definitely a mural that speaks more to the community in terms of the majority of what the community believes in,” Del Real says.
At Carpenter and Cullerton streets, New Jersey artist Layqa Nuna Yawar created a mural in 2015 using the trope of the Pietà, a Christian art subject depicting Mary holding Jesus after the crucifixion. Yawar says the image speaks of “secular sacrifice and martyrdom.”
Although others may interpret it differently, Yawar says, “For me, it’s not the Virgin Mary, nor Jesus. To me, these are just spaces for people.
At Little Village’s Amor De Dios United Methodist Church, 2356 S. Sawyer Ave., mosaics created by the Green Star Movement — a nonprofit arts program for students and community members — embrace the sides of the building.
Pastor Ramiro Rodriguez says the Amor De Dios mosaics, created by students at nearby Farragut Career Academy High School, represent the church’s missions, including one, completed in 2016, that depicts nourishment for those who have it need.
The other, completed in 2019, involves a community garden maintained by church members, according to Kamelia Hristeva, founder and executive director of the Green Star Movement.
Adam and Eve can be seen kissing with fruit and a snake on a wall at 16th Street and Ashland Avenue in a 2018 mural by the New York artists known as Menace and Resa.
To commemorate Day of the Dead, a female skull stands on the side of 2407 S. Kedzie Ave. Chicago artist Claü painted the mural in 2019 as part of the Little Village Villarte art festival, placing stars in the woman’s hair to represent femininity and self-love.
Claü says the woman is a guide for dead children – especially those killed by guns – who “walk the path” to visit their living families during the first day of the traditionally two-year-long fall celebrations. days. The woman holds a blue flame to represent the soul of a child.
“I think about the children: they run off the path, or they are distracted, or they are not sure,” says Claü. “So she walks along the path. They get there. They can cross over and visit their families here.