Iconic Gateway Mural In San Antonio To Get New Life

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A massive, iconic West Side mural is showing its age, but admirers are planning to save and improve it. 

It’s called La Musica de San Anto, and artist David Blancas said the colors on the huge mural on West Commerce Street have faded.   

“No mural lasts forever and certainly that one never gets a break from the sun from the time it rises to its set,” he said. 

At about 150 feet by nearly 20 feet tall, it’s a huge mural by most any scale.

“It was a little bit daunting back in the day,” Blancas said. “That was by far the biggest project I had ever undertaken.”

Blancas said the the mural grew from a bold idea by Manuel “Manny” Castillo.

“Ten years ago the then-executive director of San Anto Cultural Arts had this vision of having this mural to be kind of the gateway to the West Side, and it would represent music legends of San Antonio,” he said. 

In 2008, Blancas and other volunteer artists chose 10 iconic San Antonio musicians to paint for the project. Hector Saldaña is the Music Curator at the Wittliff Collections.  

“You’re taken in by the beauty of the art, by the vibrancy of the colors. And then if you take the time to read the little captions, you’ll learn something,” he said.

At the time, Blancas presented an interesting idea for the mural.

“The vision that I pitched is that they would be playing this fictional concert all together despite the fact they were from different eras,” he said.   

His idea came to fruition and the mural — as it exists now — explores almost a century of music, from 1920s-era Rosita Fernandez, to Randy Garibay, who performed until the early 2000s. 

Saldaña said Garibay was quite talented, and a real character.

“Randy Garibay — the legend is that he was always one of the ones that should have been in the Texas Tornados,” he said.  

The Texas Tornados were considered by many to be the state’s unofficial super group. Saldaña said that Garibay was quite accomplished.  

“His group, you know, went off to the West Coast and they went to Las Vegas, and Elvis and Frank Sinatra went to go see them,” he said. 

One of the actual Texas Tornados was Doug Sahm, also featured in the mural, and was the star of the 1960s’ Sir Douglas Quintet.

“He started as a child star and then, but he ends up being this Tex-Mex icon,” he said. 

Saldaña said the female singers made their mark both here, and on a national stage.

“Lydia Mendoza came out of a family music act very much like the Carter family and country music,” he said. 

Saldaña noted that the women artists both had performed for presidents. Even so, he said they remained grounded.

“Every one of those artists was very close to their roots and down-home, which I love,” Saldaña said. 

An alliance of West Side groups are raising funds for Blancas to restore the mural, and he’s hoping that mural will end up being the first of many. 

“Hopefully, is it can be a beginning of a series of them,” he said. 

Blancas had a philosophical take on the art form, tracing the idea back to the very beginning of humanity.

“And the murals were from the very first form expression, cave paintings. This is how this is how it’s been from the beginning of civilizations,” he said. 

Blancas plans to have La Musica de San Anto restored and ready for public viewing by the end of the year.  

Jack Morgan can be reached at Jack@TPR.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii.