Cruz, Manuel G. - by Camilo José Vergara
Manuel G. Cruz, the Greatest Muralist You’ve Never Heard Of
by Camilo José Vergara
The work of one of L.A.’s best Chicano folk artists has largely been forgotten. Co-published with Zócalo Public Square
Manuel G. Cruz has produced the best folk art I have encountered in Los Angeles. Through his religious and historical murals, he proves himself a good storyteller and colorist, with figures inhabiting dry, treeless California landscapes of brown hills, cacti, agave plants, and lakes. He also decorates the exterior walls of shops with scenes displaying their products, purveyors, and customers.
Cruz is an octogenarian who, in his heyday (the ’70s to the ’90s), was a leader among Chicano muralists. He was also the most Mexican in his subject matter. He lovingly depicts an essential world, ignoring the overwhelming presence of América del Norte. His vision is fixed on the monuments of Pre-Columbian times, the conquest, and the Virgin of Guadalupe, ending with the wars and revolutions that took place a century ago.