Califas Legacy Project: Guillermo Aranda

Connecting the traditions of indigenous peoples through his art

Yermo Aranda is a cross cultural artist at ease in the studio painting, on the scaffold priming a wall for his murals or leading the dance group, the White Hawk Dancers, which he co-founded in Watsonville, California in 1983. His art practice has taken him from southern to northern California, but it is here on in the Monterey Bay Crescent he has been most active.

Yermo and the Mural Tradition

La Dualidad (1970) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

La Dualidad mural

La Dualidad depicts the immense story of the universe, of humanity, and of America’s indigenous peoples.

Symbols from diverse traditions Aztec, Mayan and Native American cultures are honored.

In focus is the duality of positive and negative.

Guillermo Aranda: Iconography of moving mural illustration (2020) by Wallace Boss and Museo Eduardo CarrilloMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Historical Mural/Chicano Park (2012) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Historical Mural/Chicano Park

Chicano Park Murals adorn the retaining walls and pillars in an 8 acre area below on and off ramps in San Diego.

The department of transportation built the freeway in a largely Latino community dividing the neighborhood in half.

The land was promised to the community as a park and became a destination which is listed in the national historic register.

Califas Legacy Project: Muralist Guillermo (Yermo) Aranda on the creative process (2020) by Wallace BossMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Yermo on Painting the Chicano Park Murals

Source of Life/Mural (also called Cultures of the World) (1994) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Source of Life Mural

Painted in a youth correctional facility, this mural abounds with culturally specific images from Latinx culture as well as themes from across the world. It allowed the students to see themselves with a rich history, consider the hardship of conquests and the power of nature.

Guillermo Aranda: Early Chicano Movement (2020) by Wallace Boss and Museo Eduardo CarrilloMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Society's Light/Mural (2021) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

First Panel: The Sacredness of the Mother and Child

The WIC center is for women, infants and children. WIC is a safe place for families to receive a sense of hope, comfort and security. The mural greets them as they enter.

Society's Light Mural

Recently restored, the mural on the WIC building in Watsonville California is comprised of five panels, each with its own set of meanings:

Second Panel: Empowerment & Sacrifices of Women & Mothers

Third Panel: Education and Resiliency

Fourth Panel: The Spirit and Celebration

Fifth Panel:The Lord of Light & the Abundance of the Earth

Guillermo Aranda: Kids and collaboration (2020) by Museo Eduardo Carrillo and Wallace BossMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Ex'celen Alpapisi/Mural (2010) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Ex'celen Alpapisi/Mural

The Esselen people were indigenous to the Monterey Bay region and are seeking recognition as a tribe.

Cave paintings are found throughout this region in the rugged hills of the Santa Lucia mountains.

Caves are painted with rushing hands in what some believe was a location for fertility rites.

The Crow (2020) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Indigenous Spirituality in Yermo's Art

As one of the founders of the Whitehawk/Ixtatutli Indian Council for Children, indigenous spirituality is an important theme in Yermo's work. This man holds a ritual fan used in the ceremonial dances called Danza, handed down through generations from the original Aztec dances.

Dance to Quetzalcoatl (1986) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Dance to Quetzalcoatl

To revere Quetzalcoatl through rituals respected his role as the inventor of the calendar and books, he was considered the patron of priests.

They were entrusted to negotiate between this world and the next so it is fitting that he is associated with the morning and evening star- a time of transition.

Calling the Dancers (1988) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Calling the Dancers

The living ceremonial dance traditions handed down from the Aztecs continue to be observed. Xilonen is the traditional indigenous rites of passage ceremony for girls becoming young women.

The Guardian (1989) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

The Guardian

Deeply personal to communities world-wide, the loss of our young people is commemorated. May a larger than life guardian escort us onward to the next phase.

Resurrection of a Dancer (1989) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Resurrection of a Dancer

Fusing a skeleton and still human figure “Resurrection of a Dancer” suggests a tribute to a once vibrant member to the community, no longer here in flesh, a spirit guide.

The feathered head dress was worn by Cuauhtémoc, an emblematic Mexican leader who ruled during the arrival of Cortez and the subjugation by the Spaniards in 1521.

Popoxcomitl (1996) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo


The popoxcomitl is the ritually used ceremonial smudge bowl. Healers known as curandera/os prepare the environment through the smoky scents of burning sage or other aromatics. Familiar spaces are transformed and become sacred spaces.

The curandera here wears a ceremonial headdress. When it is worn it symbolizes strength, wisdom, power, and freedom, the wearer is trusted and treated with honor. It is an object that is deeply revered and made with deep care.

Eagle Vision (2009) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Eagle Vision

The eagle is royalty and its sharp sight is both real and metaphoric. In Native American indigenous culture, the eagle is considered the strongest and most heroic of all birds. Its feathers symbolize what is highest, bravest, strongest, and holiest. It connotes powerful medicine.

Those That Have Passed (2014) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Those That Have Passed

In this painting a tribute to the transition to the spirit world is commemorated. The majestic eagle is understood to bring our prayers to the great creator and so this cloaked skull has tremendous power to intervene between this world and the spirit world.

The Transition (2016) by Guillermo ArandaMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

The Transition

The spirit taking flight in ornamental regalia. The Native Hope website explains, “In Native American culture it is believed that all things possess an inherent virtue, power, and wisdom...

The Transition

The feather... is a powerful symbol that signifies honor and a connection between the owner, the Creator, and the bird from which the feather came. It symbolizes trust, honor, strength, wisdom, power, and freedom. It is an object that is deeply revered and a sign of honor."

Credits: Story

The Califas Legacy Project grew out of the recognition that our region represents an opportunity to fill in a missing piece of American art history. The Project features the art and ideas of our region’s Chicano/a/x and Latinx creative leaders, our elders in the movement and the next generation artists across the Monterey Bay Crescent.

Visit our website for more information about the Califas Legacy Project and full schedule of events.

The Califas Legacy Project is supported by the Arts Council of Santa Cruz County. The nine organizations participating in the Project are:

Museo Eduardo Carrillo
Monterey Museum of Art
Moving Parts Press
Santa Cruz Art League
Santa Cruz Public Libraries
Watsonville Public Library
UCSC Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery
UCSC Institute of Arts and Sciences
UCSC Library Special Collections & Archives

Story content designed by Vicki Winters of V-Link Studio.Videos by Wallace Boss.
Translation provided by Irene Rodriguez.
Photos provided by artist. Artwork copyright retained by artist.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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