Latin American Studies program relaunch and mural unveiling


Geometrical shapes from the highlands of Chiapas. Colourful flowers from the Zapotec communities in Oaxaca. More than a pretty picture, a new mural in Clearihue celebrates traditional Indigenous textiles from Mexico.

Latin American Studies director Beatriz de Alba-Koch revealed the stories behind the artwork now hanging in the hallway of A-wing at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 9. She lauded the women behind the handiwork of these culturally significant designs, including animals from the Otomí people from the Central Mexican Plateau and dancers from the Mixtec from Oaxaca.

At the launch, which happened a day after the United States celebrated Columbus Day, de Alba-Koch spoke of a time 50 years ago when a Peruvian politician suggested that Latin America be renamed Indoamérica.

“I wish to express my hope that one day, we may return here to rename this wall and the program it stands for in a manner that more fully acknowledges the creative fire of Indigenous peoples that unite us all from the Arctic to the Antarctic,” she said.

Muralists Kay Gallivan and visiting Mexican artist Abraham Léon Pérez were on hand for the celebration, which included live music performed by Chroma String Quartet from Veracruz, México. The Latinos Without Borders student club provided limeade, as well as hibiscus flower water and tamarind water.

De Alba-Koch said she hoped the mural would inspire students to connect with the re-launched Latin American Studies program, which will provide an opportunity to engage with the “many different cultures that are alive in the Americas.”

UVic alumna Kay Gallivan studied in the Latin American Studies program, as well as history and Spanish. Her travels to Mexico inspired her to study muralism as part of research funded through the Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards (JCURA).  

“The [LAS] program was very warm and welcoming in fostering my artistic creativity,” she said. “I hope this mural will inspire students to engage with the beauty and complexity that Latin American culture has to offer.”

Check out a photo album from the event at @UVicHumanities on Facebook.