SAN JOSE, Calif. - Community members in one San Jose neighborhood are fighting to save a mural they said paints the story of their rich history and culture. The new property owner has said he does not believe the mural fits into his plans of bringing tech to the area.
At the corner of South First and Oak Streets in San Jose is a mural that honors the heritage of the Guadalupe Washington neighborhood.
The neighborhood is primarily Latino. It has been for the past 30 years. Community members painted the mural five years ago to help deter gang graffiti. It highlights Dia de los Muertos and Baile Folklorico.
"I actually like two things," said Nine-year-old Brenda Caldera. "I like the butterflies here and I love the dancer."
One of the dancers is community hero Brenda Lopez who died of cancer in 1999. Nancy Lopez is her sister.
"She noticed there were a lot children with older siblings in gangs and she felt she could give back to the little ones, give them something positive to focus on and she started the Folklorico group," said Nancy Lopez.
Now this beloved community mural could be painted over. The new property owner has told the neighborhood association the mural didn't jive with his plans.
"I asked him what his plans were for the building and he said he wanted to fill it with high tech workers," said Rosalinda Aguilar, Guadalupe Washington Neighborhood Association President. "He didn’t want a mural that only was significant to one portion, one group of people."
"If he didn’t want that exact mural, could he work with the mural artist and the community and create a mural everyone could be supportive of," said San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez. "Unfortunately he is only really interested in painting over the mural."
City leaders said their hands are tied since it’s a private building and the owner followed the rules by notifying the mural artist. It can now be painted over in 90 days.
"He’s concerned about making money and profiting than he is about the wellbeing and prosperity of this community," said Mural Artist Thomas "Wisper" Talamantes.
"We keep hearing about gentrification and it just all of a sudden showed up," said Mark Lopez, Brenda Lopez’s brother.
KTVU reached out to the property owner but did not hear back. The property manager also declined to talk.
Community members said they’re willing to embrace change but said erasing the mural is erasing their celebrated culture.
"Everyone who is on this wall worked really hard to get here," said Nine-Year-Old Maddison Zaragoza.
"This is our home and if it starts off here what’s to say, it’s going to continue on and take away more of our neighborhood," said Nancy Lopez.
The community plans to hold a rally on Monday night. The association said the earliest the owner could paint over the mural is the end of December.
Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU. Email Azenith at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.