what is the role of symbols, designs, and messages now considered to be offensive
The city says it is exploring other options in dealing with preserving the historic integrity of the old Mission Drive-In Theater, which included a mural featuring the old image known as the 'Sleeping Mexican' which many people now consider to be an offensive stereotype, 1200 WOAI news reports.
The figure showing a man wearing a large sombrero, his knees against his chest and sleeping up against Mission San Jose was commonly used in the 1940s and 1950s. A similar drawing, this time featuring the man sleeping against a cactus, was used throughout the 1950s by the state of Arizona to promote tourism.
"The portrayal of an Indian as being lazy and dumb and stupid is what it depicts," Ronald Rocha told a panel meeting at the Mission Trails Public Library last night. "A lazy, meaningless person."
The debate is part of a larger controversy over how racist, demeaning, and offensive historical images should be treated in preservation efforts. Similar debates have emerged about signs and symbols offensive to African Americans which once were common sights across the South, anti-Chinese images in California, and anti-Native American symbols across the country, including, in the eyes of some, sports team nicknames like the Braves, the Redskins, and the Indians.
The issue in this case is whether the Sleeping Mexican, which was a key part of the design on the movie theater from its construction in 1947 to the early 1960s, should be included in a mural honoring the theaters to go up near the library.
"The mural was found to be significantly part of this historic marquee back in the forties and fifties," said the city's Jimmy La Flore. "Maybe we can take a look at substitution."
Several people spoke out last night, saying the image is offensive and should not be included in any modern design. But officials say historic preservation efforts require that the structure be significantly reproduced, including the art work that was part of it.
A second public hearing is planned before any final decision is made.