One of Lalo Cota’s downtown Phoenix murals was demolished on Monday, June 19.
Located on the southeast corner of Roosevelt Street and Seventh Avenue, the mural depicted one of Cota’s most iconic images – a sombrero-style flying saucer hovering over the Phoenix skyline. The UFO was surrounded by a trio of lowriders, another common theme for Cota.
Cota painted the mural on an exterior wall of a car wash in 2015, replacing a previous design he'd painted in the same spot. Other car wash walls featured work by other artists — including Angel Diaz and Karma Leigh. But those were also destroyed.
Now something entirely different is planned for that location.
"I've known for years that a Starbucks is going in there," Cota says. "It's really not a big deal."
Basically, that's what happens with street art, he says.
He’s also painted murals in the Grand Avenue arts district, where you can see three of his lowriders at the three-way intersection of Roosevelt Street, Grand Avenue, and 15th Avenue.
More recently, he painted a mural at Chase Field. It incorporates the skulls often seen in his work.
Cota was born in Navojoa, Sonora, Mexico. So, his work frequently incorporates skeletons and other Mexican imagery.
But Cota traces the cars back to childhood.
"I remember seeing cars in the Rose Parade as a little kid," he says. "Cars were the original street art."
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The flying-saucer style sombreros, on the other hand, stem from anti-immigrant rhetoric.
"I heard Joe Arpaio say we were under invasion, and the image of a sombrero UFO popped into my head," he says. That was back in 2010 or so, when Arpaio was Maricopa County Sheriff, but before Arizona passed the anti-immigrant bill known as SB 1070.
Instead of dwelling on the demolition, Cota says he's focused on upcoming mural projects in California and Puerto Rico.
"Hey, man, we had a good run," he says.