Based on real-life events, my opera mural for the Community Music Center concert hall tells the moving story of a Salvadorian family that immigrates to the United States and puts down roots in the Mission District. The family is determined to make the best life possible in this new country, while still preserving the heritage of their homeland. As an immigrant myself, I know what a challenge it can be like to live in a new place. I wanted to utilize the mural for a better understanding of the immigrant experience.
Immigrants from different backgrounds come in contact in San Francisco. It is a busy and diverse city, but the freedom to live here comes with a price. What all immigrants have in common is, that they work hard every day to build a new and exciting life – often exhausted but dedicated to put down roots. Immigrants play a vital part in shaping America’s growth and progress as a nation, but their contributions are often overlooked. I put lots of love in my work, and many times it goes unnoticed. Sometimes I feel like a ghost – unseen and ignored. It is exciting to start a new chapter in your life, but you also miss your family and friends.
I met several times with the Community Music Center to elaborate the mural theme. The Salvadorian family in the opera comes from a long line of farmers, and the idea was to create a mural, that reflects the family’s journey to San Francisco with a map, street signs, travel tickets and personal memories. Flowers have a very important role in their life. They are a reminder of the good times in El Salvador. It is explained that the daughter’s name “Xochitl” is from the Nahuatl language and means flowers. They remind the mother of the time when she met her husband. He would always have flowers for her. Flowers brought joy and played an essential part in many family events, from birthdays to weddings to funerals. Xochitl and her mother are going out into the community to spread the joy and sell flowers in the Mission District. They enjoy the smiles on the people’s faces.
I love to tell the story of Xochitl, because it is a true story and many immigrants can relate to the experiences of this loving family. They stay optimistic and overcome challenges and obstacles together, like the landlord, who has lived very long in the Mission, and doesn’t like how it is changing. He is very distrustful when Xochitl’s father explains, that he would like to clean out the backyard and build a garden. Xochitl interrupts the discussion and tells the landlord about the garden they used to have in El Salvador. She mentions the flowers and the little green parakeets that used to visit in spring. The landlord’s face changes when he hears about the birds. It softens his heart, since they remind him of his own homeland and his grandmother, who used to have green parakeets a long time ago. A transformation happens, when Xochitl sings of the garden she dreams of and about what it means to belong somewhere. She not only convinces the landlord to rent his house and backyard to them, he also becomes a good friend. Their story is about putting down roots in the garden, in their new home in the Mission neighborhood, and in other people’s hearts.