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‘We are here’: New mural to showcase Mexican-American heritage in Jackson

Saldaña Perez said everywhere he goes he likes to think that people bring with them the culture, the traditions, and the mentalities of where they come from. This symbol of heritage appears in his recent mural painted as a house strapped to the back of a young man.
Emily Cohen
/
KHOL
Saldaña Perez said everywhere he goes he likes to think that people bring with them the culture, the traditions, and the mentalities of where they come from. This symbol of heritage appears in his recent mural painted as a house strapped to the back of a young man.

Walkers and bikers will soon see a new mural as they commute on Teton County’s pathways.

A new mural is being painted by Francisco Saldaña Perez, who graduated from Jackson Hole High School and lives in Tlaxcala, Mexico. This winter he returned to Jackson to work, to see his mother and to paint a nearly 100-foot mural for the town.

Commissioned by JH Public Art, the mural consists of 10 eight-foot panels. Half of the images represent life in Tlaxcala while the other half depict life in Teton Valley.

Those two worlds are united by a large face. Half is painted red, white and green (the Mexican flag), while the other is red, white and blue.

Painter Francisco Saldaña Perez stands in front of part of his new mural which will be on display in Jackson.
Emily Cohen
/
KHOL
Painter Francisco Saldaña Perez stands in front of part of his new mural which will be on display in Jackson.

Two homes

Saldaña Perez was born in Lopez Mateos, a town of about 500 people in the small state of Tlaxcala, Mexico. But since he spent nearly a decade living in Jackson, he calls both areas home.

The imagery he paints in his mural represents the biculturalism that many in the interconnected communities of the Tetons and Tlaxcala can relate to.

“There’s a lot of people from Tlaxcala … that have been living here for 20 years, 40 years, and sometimes we pretend that they’re not here, but we are here,” Saldaña Perez said.

Through his mural, he said he hopes to communicate to the Jackson community at large that, “we can work together towards something, even though we are from different countries, different cultures.”

When in Tlaxcala, Saldaña Perez teaches English and art classes, along with selling paintings and portraits. In Jackson, he works as a housekeeper at a hotel in Teton Village while painting his evenings away in a studio at the Center for the Arts.

A symbol of heritage

This will be Saldaña Perez’s fifth mural, but his first in the United States. As a young child, he dreamed of being a painter, “sharing [his] thoughts to the public in general, whether it was here in Jackson or Mexico.”

“Because back then,” Saldaña Perez said. “It was the only two places that I knew.”

In his 20s, Saldaña Perez left Jackson to live in Australia and Peru, often traveling with little more than a backpack. Everywhere he goes he likes to think that people bring with them the culture, the traditions and the mentalities of where they come from. This symbol of heritage appears in his recent mural, showing a house strapped to the back of a young man.

Saldaña Perez’s mural is one of three works of public art recently commissioned by JH Public Art by artists with ties to Jackson’s sister city in Tlaxcala, Mexico.

The first was painted by Jackson Hole High School students in a dual immersion Spanish Art Class. lt was installed last November near Garamon Park in Jackson. Another Tlaxcaltecan artist, Pedro Avalino Alcantara from Hueyotlipan, will send canvases from Mexico to be installed along the Teton County Bike Path.

Later this summer, Saldaña Perez’s mural will be on display on the bike path as well. While walking, skating, or biking along them, residents can be reminded of the beauty of the interconnected communities of Tlaxcala and the Tetons.

Alyson Spery is a local documentarian. She’s producing a film on the Tlaxcaltecan mural-painters.

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