Reforma y Libertad/Reform and Liberty, 1971
Blue Island Avenue and Cullerton Street
In the early 1970s, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood was one of the hotbeds of public murals. In the mix of artists creating works was Ray Patlán, self-proclaimed as "one of the earliest initiators of the contemporary Mural Renaissance in the United States." Hired in 1970 as the first artist-in-residence of Casa Aztlán community center, one of the oldest social service agencies in the Mexican-American neighborhood, Patlán was also responsible for a number of murals in the area, including Reforma y Libertad/Reform and Liberty. As area residents fought for immigration and workers’ rights, Patlán's mural features the famed Mexican reformer, Benito Juárez and revolutionary Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, who led the Mexican War of Independence.
In a 2010 interview, Patlán explained that when mural work is done in low-income communities, it is a powerful influence toward making change, especially when it starts as changing a person's visual environment. Educated at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Patlán has directed and/or executed more than one hundred murals in the United States, Mexico, Asia and Europe.