Filipino community hopes to see mural at Demuth Park completed by next year
Cultural identification, aesthetics, and storytelling will all be part of the next mural project planned in Palm Springs.
The mural, planned for a wall at the Demuth Park Community Center, will tell the story of Filipino history, culture, and people of Palm Springs and the region. It’s being driven by Bayanihan Desert, a self-described “loose-knit group of friends, family, and colleagues” who came together several years ago to connect about issues concerning Filipinx and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the desert.
“Early on, we had been thinking about creating a mural to acknowledge the overlooked stories of Filipinos here in Palm Springs and the many ways we have contributed to the cultural, economic, and creative histories of the region,” explained Mara Gladstone, director of programs at Desert X Biennial, and spokesperson for Bayanihan Desert Public Arts. The idea for a mural came together throughout the last year, and pieces fell into place.
One of the critical pieces was identifying artist James Adam Labuen Garcia as the creative visionary for the project. Known as gaNyan in the art world, he was born in Palm Springs, graduated from Palm Springs High School, and attended College of the Desert. While pursuing his undergraduate degree at San Francisco State University, he was the lead artist on the school’s Filipino Community Mural.
“He is a terrific artist, an experienced muralist, and has created other community-minded mural projects in California,” Gladstone said. “But he’s also a homegrown talent.”
Why create the mural at Demuth Park? The neighborhood, formerly known as the Veterans Tract, included an enclave of Filipino Americans. Filipino farmworkers, chefs, and hospitality professionals established their homes in the neighborhood and built a multigenerational, multicultural community beginning in the early 20th century.
Gladstone explained that the term “Bayanihan” is an essential part of Filipinx culture; it is the pursuit of cooperative unity, being in the community, and helping others.
In California, Filipinos make up the most significant percentage of Asian Americans: The Coachella Valley has a rich Fil-Am history, including much that is not recorded. Elders often serve as oral history books.
“So many families who migrated here in the 1940s-1970s still live and work in the Veterans Tract — now Demuth Park — neighborhood and surrounding areas. And there are some amazing stories,” Gladstone said.
Filipino agricultural workers were a significant part of the Coachella Valley grape strike in 1965, which preceded the California Grape Strike and the creation of the United Farm Workers union. Santos and Lynda de Jesus made Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s favorite bar snack, Santos Cocktail Cheese, at the Palm Springs Tennis Club.
Gladstone said these legacy families are still in the area, and there are also more recent residents, “Who, like many of us here, come here for jobs and nice weather.”
“There are many people who were born here, spent time elsewhere, and have returned to the region to work, take care of their families, and enjoy the desert,” she said. “The Filipino population can be seen in every industry here in the Coachella Valley. We are the backbone that moves our desert community forward. We are your teachers, are part of agricultural history, the hospitality industry, we are taking care of you in hospitals. We are artists, community organizers, cultural and community leaders, small business owners. We constitute the fabric of this region.”
Filipino history in the Coachella Valley will play a large part in the mural’s final design. The process of deciding that design will include research, community forums to gather input and archival images, conversations with the artist, and the development of public programs and education.
Bayanihan Desert hopes to see the final design of the mural approved by the city in the summer and a formal dedication in the winter of 2023.
Gladstone explained that providing visual representation in the arts, education, leadership, and politics allows underrepresented communities to represent the Filipinx history, and “acknowledge that we are also here, and have contributed greatly to the Coachella Valley.”
“We believe this mural — the first of its kind in the desert — can celebrate invisible histories and bring communities together,” she said. “The proposed mural can also provide a way for future generations to see themselves and be inspired to continue the legacy of contributing to the desert.”
Although the mural represents the Filipino culture, Gladstone points out it’s important to remember that art is for everyone.
“We hope that people of diverse cultural and racial backgrounds will learn from and connect with the mural as part of our collective history and humanity,” she stated. “Culture is not monolithic, and we would hope that representing the beauty and diversity of our heritage is important to all of us here. I think many of us will be surprised at the connections we share.”
AID FOR UKRAINIANS: A fundraising appeal for assisting Ukrainian refugees, organized by a Palm Springs-based spiritual Jewish community, has so far brought in $6,000 in only one week. Tom Stansbury of The Havurah of the Desert said Monday that the outpouring of generosity from members was unexpected but not surprising given the dire consequences faced by many in Ukraine. “We are a very small organization of only about 60 members, making it all that much more remarkable that we have raised a significant amount of money for this important cause — and in only one week,” Stansbury said. Money raised is going immediately to HIAS, which provides vital services to refugees and asylum seekers around the world. “These innocent people are escaping the violence and destruction thrust upon them,” Stansbury wrote. “They are leaving their homes and homeland, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Our fundraising will help provide countless meals, blankets, diapers, and other necessities.” A donation page is live on The Havurah’s website here.
NOT GUILTY PLEA: A 64-year-old man charged in the fatal stabbing of a woman in Palm Springs pleaded not guilty Monday to murder and other charges. Miguel Hernandez Toscano was arrested after the roughly 9:50 p.m. March 1 stabbing in the 1700 block of Arenas Road. The victim, Ernestina Oropeza, 48, was found dead at the scene, according to the Palm Springs Police Department. The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office last week charged Toscano with one felony count of murder and three felony counts of willful child cruelty. He also faces a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a deadly weapon in commission of a felony. Toscano appeared at the Larson Justice Center on Monday, where he pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was scheduled for a felony settlement conference on April 15. Toscano remains held at the John Benoit Detention Center on $1 million bail. The victim’s family established a fund to help cover expenses associated with her funeral.
? Today’s events
- The Mizell Center offers multiple programs and classes today, starting at 8 a.m.
- The Palm Springs Sunshine Sisters are having coffee, at Koffi, at 8 a.m.
- The Organized Neighborhoods Of Palm Springs (ONE-PS) monthly membership meeting will be held in person at 5:30 p.m.
- Jazz on the 2nd Floor runs from 5 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the Palm Springs Cultural Center
- The Palm Springs Unified School District Board of Education meets in regular session at 6 p.m.
- Toastmasters starts at 6 p.m. Send an email to [email protected] for more information and the Zoom link.
For more events in Palm Springs, check out our complete community calendar. Want your event listed? Just click here to add you event.
? What to watch for
- Mina Hartong hosts a free event at Mizell Center titled I’m Speaking: Reflections on International Women’s Day on Wednesday.
- Palm Canyon Theatre continues its performance of Palm Springs Getaway Thursday through Sunday.
- Dezart Performs will stage The Mountaintop again this weekend at the Pearl McManus Theater.
- The Richard M. Milanovich Legacy Hike and 5K Run at Indian Canyons on Friday is open for registration.
- Want to help plant trees? More than 150 volunteers are needed on March 12 to plant trees at Desert Highland Park, Victoria Park and Demuth Park.
- The Shamrock 5K will be held the morning of March 12, starting at the Palm Springs American Legion. Registration is open now.
- Heart-to-Heart Palm Springs is selling tickets for its March 12 Military Women Appreciation Luncheon. Details are here.
- The Palm Springs Post and Palm Springs Cultural Center present their first free “Community Conversations” event on March 14.
- The Mizell Center’s Third Wednesday Speaker Series continues on March 16 with Bill Goldstein, Larry Kramer’s authorized biographer, discussing Mr. Kramer’s life and work.
- The ONE-PS Annual Neighborhood Picnic is slated for March 19 at Ruth Hardy Park.
- Palm Springs The Musical: Born to Sparkle premieres at Desert Rose Playhouse on March 24. It runs Thursdays through Sundays until April 10.
- Palm Canyon Theatre is staging Cyrano de Bergerac from March 31 until April 3.