Community's Heritage Comes Alive In Mural Colorful Artwork On Garden Wall Depicts The Rich Diversity Of Puerto Rican Life

Posted: June 27, 1991

To find their roots, the people in the neighborhood surrounding 2217 N. 2nd St. need look no farther than their garden wall.

Last night, among the marigolds, tomatoes and eggplants, this predominantly

Hispanic community in Kensington dedicated a three-story mural called ''Raices" - or roots - to itself.

The vibrant artwork depicts the history of Puerto Rico from the landing of Christopher Columbus and his encounter with the Taino Indians to the landing of African slaves by the Spanish to the multicultural Puerto Ricans of today. The cost of painting the mural was paid for by the Anti-Graffiti Network.

Barbara Geshell, Alvino Pearson, Deitrich Adonis, Ann Davidson and Maurice Carter, all of the network, painted the mural that looms over the medium-sized vacant lot-turned- children's garden. The fence protects garden sites between two rowhouses. The mural is painted on the wall of the house at 2215 N. 2nd St.

"First there were the Tainos, and then the Spanish came and ruined everything," Darling Rosario said to the standing-room-only crowd of about 75 gathered in the children's garden.

Rosario and Geshell designed the mural, which also features likenesses of the Puerto Rican flag; the coqui - a tree frog and island symbol; typical island masks; and the late Roberto Clemente, a Hall of Fame baseball player.

Abe Brown, 13, an area resident and one of the keepers of the garden, was pleased with the outcome of the neighborhood's three-year endeavor.

"It tells all about Puerto Rico, the Spanish and the Latin (people). It shows all of the achievements that everybody has done. All their effort and stuff," Brown said.

According to Rosario, the idea for the mural originated about two years ago, when his mother-in-law, Iris Brown, asked him what he could come up with to cover one of the two garden walls. Brown is the coordinator of the garden, which replaced an abandoned, trash-strewn lot.

"What better thing to have in a Puerto Rican community but their roots," Rosario said, adding that there are many misconceptions about Puerto Rican ancestry.

"We are a blend of different cultures," he said.

Tomisita Romero, another area resident, said the gathering was a dream come true.

"This should go down in history because we never expected this to happen," Romero said.

However, Crystal Rodriguez, 8, was more intrigued by individual parts of the mural rather than by the historic significance.

"Look, the Indians are naked."

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