Emigdio Vasquez, Legendary Chicano Artist, Passes Away

emigdio_vasquez_cypress_street_mural_2009.jpg
Photo by Keith May
Vasquez, in front of his "controversial" mural, in 2009

Emigidio Vasquez, a legendary Chicano artist most famous for his epic murals that continue to dot Orange County, passed away yesterday after a long illness. He was 74.

Born in the mining town of Jerome, Arizona, Vasquez moved to Orange's Cypress Street barrio in the 1940s and eventually gravitated toward painting. In his heyday, he achieved the almost-impossible: mainstream, underground AND governmental success, as his works became famous nationwide among art lovers and lionized among Chicano activists. He even scored contracts to do public murals for the county of Orange (the sprawling epic of OC history off the old OCTA bus terminal near the Civic Center in SanTana) and the city of Anaheim (in a mural located in the lobby of Anaheim City Hall) during the 1980s.

Unfortunately, Orange County is an ingrate, and Vasquez and his supporters spent the last years of his life trying to preserve his work from being destroyed by the elements, indifference, and law enforcement.

emigdiovasquez.jpg
OC Weekly archives
Memories of the Past and Images of the Present

Back in 2006, I wrote about his fading Anaheim masterpiece, Memories of the Past and Images of the Present; as of this writing, only a tiny sliver has been restored. In 2009, I wrote about how the Orange Police Department was trying to claim that a Vasquez mural, "Tribute to the Chicano Working Class", painted on a garage in the Cypress Street barrio was deserving of whitewashing because it supposedly promoted, glamorized and inspired gang violence. The Orange PD stance was used by the Orange County District Attorney's office to issue a gang injunction in the area that later on was largely ruled unconstitutional. And last year, during an awards ceremony in Vasquez's honor, I urged everyone in attendance to work toward preserving Vasquez's murals, especially given many of them were painted in areas currently being gentrified. So far, nothing, a little bit.

No details of any memorial service for Vasquez has yet been disclosed by his family. A GoFund account has been set up to defray the costs of Vasquez's coming service.

Email: garellano@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @gustavoarellano.

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29 comments
Jerry Vazquez
Jerry Vazquez

Do you know if he ever did any murals on Tiburcio Vasquez ?

Jose Reyes
Jose Reyes

Q.E.P.D. another legend gone but not forgotten

Maria Solorzano
Maria Solorzano

Que descanse en Paz RIP que Jesus lo tenga en su Gloria!

Mayling Tate
Mayling Tate

Condolences to his family! May he rest in peace!

mannybanny
mannybanny

gentrification = renovate and improve

why is this a bad thing?

cynthia.curran8
cynthia.curran8

I think I seen his worked. The problem is the older whites of the OC will be dieding off in the 2020's and as you mention the worked will be more lost by then anyway. 

Jayne Becker
Jayne Becker

Farewell, my friend. You live on in our hearts and in your art.

Anna Apodaca
Anna Apodaca

RIP, he is an awesome artist and his work will live on

Adri Trujillo-Cruz
Adri Trujillo-Cruz

I remember Emigdio coming in regularly to Librería Martinez when I used to work there years ago. Such an amazing artist!!!

Steven Marin
Steven Marin

Rest In Paradise Mr.Vasquez You will be Missed!!!

Ryskers
Ryskers

He is/was one of the greatest living muralists! 


It is a shame that others will not get to admire his work (for lack

of not knowing his messages in his art. That where delivered

so many times before!) Hopefully there will be an endeavor by

city officials to preserve his many works.


He will be deeply missed!!!


Much respect to the Vasquez family for there loss...

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