Throughout the week of March 25th, 2019 SUNY Potsdam hosted world-renowned Chilean muralist, Francisco Letelier. Letelier’s task in the North Country was to complete a mural with students who had spent the previous weeks researching human rights in the Americas. Prior to Letelier’s arrival, a total of twelve SUNY Potsdam students and one St. Lawrence University student held several Skype sessions with Letelier to plan the mural’s layout and exchange research findings. During this process, students created Pinterest boards to generate image ideas and shared the images with Letelier.

The mural project was a collaboration with the joint exhibition, “Sewn In Protest: Chilean Arpilleras from the 1970s and ‘80s” between SUNY Potsdam and St. Lawrence University. The mural was completed in a week with the help of the students, Letelier, faculty, and 3 SUNY Potsdam art major students including Gabriela Alvarado '21, Allison Medley '20, and Abigail Tessier '20. 

Students also participated in quiltmaking similar to Chilean arpilleras that were made during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. With the help of faculty and Letelier, the students embroidered their themes onto burlap that will be displayed with the mural in the Lougheed Learning Commons at SUNY Potsdam.

The Bridging Cultures Mural encompasses themes of music, immigration, indigenous rights, women’s rights, and nature. With four major figures including Argentinian singer, Mercedes Sosa, an Afro-Latina activist, an indigenous woman, and a photo of a disappeared family member, the Bridging Cultures Mural project sheds light on the importance of human rights across the Americas. 

The Bridging Cultures mural team remains active on their Facebook page "Bridging Cultures Mural Project," sharing relevant information pertaining to students' research.[1] 

Francisco Letelier, Chilean Muralist

Francisco Letelier is an LA-based artist and muralist whose work has been showcased across the globe. In fact, Letelier’s father was a victim of the government forces of General Augusto Pinochet. Francisco’s father, Orlando Letelier served as the Chilean Ambassador to the U.S from 1971-73, but was later killed in a notorious 1976 car bombing in Washington, D.C. 

The bridging Cultures Mural Project was not Letelier's first time in the North Country, as thirty years prior the Letelier Mural Brigade painted two murals that depict common themes among Chilean society and that of the North Country. The murals remain in St. Lawrence University's Owen D. Young library. For more information on the murals and the Letelier mural Brigade, please follow the footnote.[2]

Maritza Angeles-Gonzalez, SUNY Potsdam '19

Maritza Angeles-Gonzalez tailored her research towards understanding the forces behind child pregnancies in Mexico. Specifically, young women around 10 years old to 15 years old. According to Angeles-Gonzalez, Mexico has the highest rates of child pregnancies in the world. Currently only 5 states in Mexico are advocating for the young women's right to assistance with their circumstances.

Scott Boyce, SUNY Potsdam '19

For Scott Boyce, the mural project was a perfect platform to explore the consequences of the privatization of water. Specifically, Boyce focused on the Bolivian water crisis where he recorded the Cochabamba Water War. Those most affected were the poor and according to Boyce, privatization often fails because of the profit incentives associated, lack of regulation, and the pre-existing extreme inequality and poverty which denies access to clean water and sanitation resources. 

Oscar Castillo, St. Lawrence University '19

Oscar Castillo researched the role of politics in music across Latin-American countries. Specifically, the Chilean New Song Movement or Nueva Cancion, as well as Latin American political rock was gauged. For Oscar, music knows no language or border and during brutal times, music served and continues to serve as more than a coping method for many Latin-American societies. Moreover, Castillo’s theme is depicted in the mural through the far left portrait of Mercedes Sosa, an Argentine singer who is beating a drum. 


Grace Chesboro, SUNY Potsdam '22

With a focus on Salvadoran women’s organization Comadres, Grace Chesboro highlighted women's rights issues. According to Chesboro, the organization was formed in 1977 in response to the disappearing of citizens who opposed the contemporary leadership. The organization is still active today and in addition to carrying out disappeared investigations, they do a variety of other projects including increasing literacy rates and sponsoring formal and technical education for those without parents.

Passioly Coste, SUNY Potsdam '19

Researching such a prevalent issue, Passioly Coste raised awareness about family separation at the U.S border. Last year, under the Trump administration more than 3,000 children were separated from their families. Coste used the mural project to protest these human rights violations and hopes to raise awareness on the continuation of the issue. 

Jennifer Darlak, SUNY Potsdam '21

Jennifer Darlak looked into Colombia’s history of violence, specifically the Patriot Union genocide in which many people went missing and lost their lives because of their ties to the party. According to Darlak, there are similar acts of violence and chaos in Colombia that mirror genocides of the 80s, which promote modern human rights violations.

Mara Frisbee, SUNY Potsdam '22

Indigenous women are targets for discriminatory violence because of their gender, race, and culture; many have gone missing and some even turn up dead. Mara Frisbee used Canada as a case study to explore the human rights violations of indigenous women. According to Frisbee, There are many different groups trying to spread awareness to stop these crimes including the REDress project, the stolen sisters march, and the creation of faceless dolls. Frisbee's research can be seen on the far right side of the mural with an indigenous women glaring at a beam of light. 

Angelin Hernandez, SUNY Potsdam '19

Angelin Hernandez focused on Colombia’s political corruption and human rights violations. Specifically, Hernandez highlighted the effects political corruption and human rights violation have on children. The number of children living in hunger has surged in Colombia, and through this project Hernandez sought to stress the crucial importance of children in Colombia.



Cristina Jimenez, SUNY Potsdam '19

Cristina Jimenez spent her time researching the human rights history and current issues of the LGBTQ+ community in Chile. According to Jimenez, it is important for her to communicate the alliance that must be established for the LGBTQ+ community. Specifically, Jimenez analyzed an organization in Chile called Movilh, which is systematically helping the LGBTQ+ community gain legal protection. 

Charina Medina, St. Lawrence University '19

Charina Medina is from Dominican Republic and she has noticed that young women in her country are the most vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual violence and harassment. As a result, Medina viewed this project as a way to further understand what is being done to stop human trafficking and sexual violence towards young women in Dominican Republic. 

Wilyendy Mir, SUNY Potsdam '21

Wilyendy Mir based her research on women’s rights in the Dominican Republic. Specifically, Mir looked at how the traditional minds and cultural influence haunts the way women portray themselves to be independent. Mir's research is reflected in the central figure of an afro-latina activist with a fierce and determined face.

Emma Woolley, SUNY Potsdam '19

Emma Woolley researched the significance of clean kitchens in Guatemala. As corruption and human rights violations occurred in Guatemala, the most affected were those living in poverty. As a result, Woolley sought to investigate the effects of toxic smoke from indoor kitchens without chimneys. Woolley found organizations like World Central Kitchen that are teaching a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle. 



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