On the charter school’s mural, an Aztec warrior triumphantly lifts a human heart as if it were a trophy. But that’s not what has sparked outrage in Chula Vista, Calif., just outside San Diego.
Another warrior in a jaguar skin headdress clutches an outstretched spear with the decapitated head of President Trump impaled on the end — a graphic display that led the school to cover the mural while the artist modifies the image.
The mural was painted by artist Sasha Andrade for Battlegroundz, an annual graffiti expo that raises scholarship funds. It was held April 28 in an alley behind the MAAC Community Charter School.
“We understand that there was a mural painted at the event this past weekend that does not align with our school’s philosophy of nonviolence,” school director Tommy Ramirez said in a statement. “We have been in communication with the artist — who has agreed to modify the artwork — to better align with the school’s philosophy.”
The mural was covered by a plastic tarp on Wednesday with a bus parked in front, local station KUSI reported. The tarp was later replaced with plywood.
Andrade could not be immediately reached for comment. But in social media posts that appear to follow a report by local station KUSI, she remained defiant.
“They can try to #censor it but here it is guys!!!!” she wrote Wednesday in a caption showing the full mural on Instagram and Twitter, including a hashtag for freedom of expression. The post was later deleted.
The Secret Service is aware of the incident, agency spokesman Joseph A. Casey told The Washington Post in a statement Saturday, but he would not say if Andrade’s painting is the subject of an investigation by its protective intelligence division.
Andrade’s mural drew heated debate on social media and locally in Chula Vista, a city of a quarter of a million people heavily populated by Hispanics and about 10 miles from the border with Mexico.
Trump’s promise to hasten deportations of undocumented migrants and his campaign comments referring to Mexicans as “rapists” linger in Andrade’s mural as an apparent protest. But people there were divided.
“It’s art, but yeah. It shouldn’t be there,” Marisol Alvarado told KUSI.
Another resident, Xavier Ramos, disagreed. “It’s a … representation of how people feel,” he told the station.
Andrade uploaded a photo to Facebook on April 29 showing her filling in green headdress feathers with spray paint. The Trump mural, with the tip of the spear protruding from his mouth, appears to be complete. But it is unclear when the photo was taken.
It is also unclear when the mural was completed, or if school officials knew about or reviewed the painting before the Battlegroundz event. Francia Baluca, a spokesman for the nonprofit that oversees the school, said the organization is investigating how and when school officials became aware of the mural, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
The school, open to all San Diego County residents, serves 300 students aged 14 to 24 years old. Though it is chartered by the Sweetwater Union High School District, it is independently run and not overseen by district officials, district spokesman Manny Rubio said.
“Obviously there’s a lot of concern over what is depicted,” he said, the Union-Tribune reported. “Because of that, they’re going to rework it. Our ultimate goal is that instruction continues and is not interrupted.”
The charter school was opened in 2001 as an alternative pathway for struggling high school students to receive their diplomas. In many cases, students are the first in their family to do so, according to the school’s website. It graduated 92 students last year.