Orange PD Harass Son of Legendary Chicano Artist Emigdio Vasquez While He Restored His Father's Mural

Photo by Aimee Murillo
Higgy Vasquez, at his dad's mural
Just when we thought we would never have to report again about legendary Chicano artist Emigdio Vasquez's public art getting tarred and feathered, here come those culture Cossacks known as the Orange Police Department--again.

Last week, visual artist Emigdio "Higgy" Vasquez was restoring one of his father's murals on Cypress Street at the request of Chapman University. The mural--on an apartment owned by Chapman that Emigdio originally painted in 1979--is titled "Tribute to the Chicano Working Class" and consists of a grand portrait of figures from Mexican history juxtaposed in chronological order to end with contemporary working-class families (some of the latter group modeled after people Emigdio knew in real life). After thirty-plus years, the mural had started to show some serious wear, so Chapman approached Higgy in October to restore it, as Emigdio is in poor health.

The restoration process had been mostly uneventful, with community members and even police officers complimenting the mural's progress from behind a makeshift fence that Higgy had erected. But that changed last Friday, when an Orange PD officer walked past the fence without permission and not bothering to identify himself. When Higgy asked "Can I help you?", the chota merely brushed him off and responded with something to the effect of "Relax, I'm friendly."

Aimee Murillo
Close-up of the graffiti portion in question, barely visible in the grand scheme of the whole mural

"This fence around the property very clearly implies that it is off limits to just anyone," Higgy told the Weekly. "I blocked the entrance off with trash cans, and he pointedly moved them out of his way to get in. Police officers don't just walk right in through your front door without permission first."

The officer looked over the mural and told Vasquez he thought the mural was good "except for one thing."

"I thought he was going to mention the portion of the mural where the face of Che Guevara was, since I know a lot of people don't like what he stood for," Higgy says. "But he just started telling me that there was a problem with this graffiti," referring to a tiny portion of the mural where a couple of youth are depicted in front of a white fence with graffiti on it that reads "OVC," the acronym for the Orange Varrio Cypress gang that has claimed Cypress Street for generations.

And then the Orange cop left.

A shaken Higgy forgot to ask for the officer's name or badge number, shocked as he was by the cop's brazen behavior. He works mostly with digital mediums such as graphic design and video, and Higgy admits he was initially unsure whether he was up to the task of restoring the mural. But having watched his father paint the mural as a child and being an experienced painter himself, Higgy accepted the project--and the Orange cop's little intimidation game has toughened his resolve.

"This is not going to happen again," he said. "For one thing, I'm going to make sure the entrance to this area is more securely closed off. Secondly, I know now not to have gotten in conversation with that police officer, and to have asked for his name."

The Orange PD could not be reached for comment. But this isn't the first time the Vasquez family has had to deal with Orange officers harassing them over the Cypress Street mural.

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