To commemorate this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, Mexican-style grilled chicken chain El Pollo Loco, ubiquitous throughout the southwestern US, has partnered with Snapchat for a unique augmented reality project that unearths lost Latinx artwork in virtual form. The month-long “Lost Murals LA” campaign brings to life five public murals that have either been whitewashed or painted over with a new work. Aside from willful destruction or erasure, many murals of Los Angeles have been destroyed due to lack of maintenance or preservation efforts. According to the campaign, Los Angeles has lost over half of its murals over time, many of which were created by Latinx artists.
The restaurant chain’s Hispanic Heritage Month project is simple: Open up Snapchat, pull up World Lenses, and point your camera at a blank wall at five different locations around the city to see “Nuestra Gente es Linda y Poderosa,” “Migration,” “Zapata,” “SK8 Still Lives Here,” and “Hex BBOY.” The locations for these murals are listed on the Lost Murals LA homepage. There, you’ll see the “lost murals” come to life on your phone.
The resurrection of lost murals in Los Angeles isn’t new. Perhaps one of the most important murals in art history, “América Tropical: Oprimida y Destrozada por los Imperialismos,” was whitewashed as a form a censorship — only to be resurrected over time without human intervention, reappearing at the height of El Movimiento. Painted by founding muralista David Alfaro Siqueiros in 1932, the bold colors have since faded from the work, but there’s now a museum and proper conservation effort dedicated to the mural.
El Pollo Loco’s “Lost Murals LA” project brings to life recent murals, painted by Hex, an artist whose work reflects the graffiti and hip hop culture of the West Coast. There are also murals by Salvadoran artist Juan Hector Ponce. The restaurant chain has also pledged its storefronts as venues for new murals. “We really didn’t want to lose that culture,” El Pollo Loco CEO Bernard Acoca told USA Today. Acoca eventually hopes to have these murals recreated by the artists on his storefronts in real life.
The “Lost Murals LA” project is the company’s latest foray in to community engagement through socially conscious campaigns. This past spring, El Pollo Loco completed over two dozen restoration projects at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights in honor of Cesar Chavez Day. “With Los Angeles being our hometown and the city that inspired the soul of our brand, we wanted to make a difference at a school that is significant to the community and has a rich Hispanic heritage,” Acoca said in a statement. The company also held a fundraiser for the families of the three young victims of the Gilroy shooting earlier this summer.