You may have heard her name; she's the badass chef behind the Barrio Cafe. She says she told herself growing up that when she turned 50, she'd start speaking up -- positively and negatively -- about what she really believed in. Just a few months after she turned 50, SB1070 was in the national spotlight.
Esparza rolled up her sleeves.
"The eyes of the world and the nation are on us because of the mess caused by SB1070, and we don't have our shit together," says Esparza. "With Calle 16, I'm not looking to make a little Mexico. I want a center of pride and culture that reflects who we are as Mexicans living in Arizona. And that's going to start with a few murals."
Esparza's Mexican. She remembers going to Mexico City with her father as a young girl and looking at the murals by Diego Rivera, José Orozco and David Siqueiros. She recently commissioned a mural to be painted behind her restaurant on Sixteenth Street in Phoenix by street artist, El Moises. That's when the bug bit.
Read more about Calle 16 and its upcoming community forum in October after the jump ..."I was walking down Sixteenth Street, it had to have been 4 a.m.; it was actually cool outside," says Esparza. "I was looking at what Moises had painted and had a vision of murals all down Sixteenth Street -- murals that would unite this neighborhood and be a place of pride for its people."
She set up a Facebook page called Calle 16 Mural Project. Within minutes, she says, local artists CaseBeer and Gennaro Garcia volunteered to help. Her page has been up for two weeks; she already has 361 fans and 16 artists ready to paint walls (though Esparza admits, these numbers have probably increased just since we sat down to talk at Barrio).
Together with artists Hugo Medina and Gennaro Garcia, and community activists Annie Loyd and Judy Butzine, Esparza will be hosting a pachanga, or blow-out party for Moises on October 11 at Barrio Cafe to celebrate the mural. That night will also be dedicated to organization and fund raising for the Calle 16 project. Artists are donating paintings to be sold and there will be sign-ups for paint donations and volunteers.
"We're taking accountability for our own actions. When I was growing up, it meant something different to be Mexican; now it's looked down upon," says Esparza. "That's going to change."
Calle 16's first wall has been chosen at the end of the plaza where Barrio sits, close to Thomas Road (pictured below). While there aren't any concrete plans for the visual, Esparza does say that Gennaro Garcia plans to import venetian plaster and is bringing his paint and a chisel.