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Mural Showing Chicano History Painted Over in East San Jose

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- A South Bay mural with a beloved history is now just a blank wall after someone painted it over in the dead of night.

Created in the 80s, the mural painted on the side of a building at 2048 Story Road in East San Jose was a tribute to the city's vibrant past. Sometime overnight on Tuesday, it was covered with gray paint.

"For it to be taken down overnight without the proper authority, it's very heartbreaking," said local resident Mario Machel. "It was more than just a painting.  It represents our culture."

In 1985, artist Jose Mesa Velasquez painted a grand mural on the wall of the former Payless Shoe Store depicting Chicano and  East San Jose history.

It spanned the centuries from the Olmecs and Aztecs to Chavez and the cholos.

"You have Jim Plunkett who also came out of the east side who played for the Raiders in the NFL," said Jose Valle of Silicon Valley Debug, who documented and studied the mural for years, was afraid for its future when the shoe store went out of business.

He says the building has changed hands several times and it's still unclear who owns it or ordered the mural removed.

Valle says he was shocked when social media photos began posting Wednesday morning showing a painting crew erasing the mural under cover of darkness.

"I think that shows some guilt or ill intent," said Valle.

At first the painters, left the Virgin of Guadalupe on the wall. But someone came back the next morning to wipe the wall clean.

"There is no Chicano studies in our public schools," said Valle. "That wall was our path to our history and our culture. Everyone who came up on the east side, you had to see that wall."

"In a way, it was a teacher, a silent teacher for me," said Carlos Rodriguez, who was inspired by the mural to become a professional muralist and has been hired by San Jose to create public art.

Rodriguez says the owners might have broken the law. "You have to contact the artist and let them know that you are planning on taking the mural down," said Rodriguez. "There is a California act that protects the muralist and the mural itself, the work, especially if it depicts history, if it depicts culture."

Rodriguez says there is a process to bring the underlying artwork back, but it's expensive.

"The longer the paint stays drying, the harder it's going to be to restore the mural."

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