The Arch of Dignity, Equality and Justice, San Jose
Commissioned By: San José State University
San José State University is a downtown campus in the nation’s 10th largest city (and the 3rd largest city in the state of California). The urban landscape in the heart of Silicon Valley is unique among the 23 California State University public higher education campuses because its geography offers 27,700 undergraduate and 5,400 graduate students spanning eight colleges the experience to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to community-engaged projects. This means the city serves as an urban laboratory presenting endless opportunities for real- world knowledge and research.
Created for SJSU by renowned Chicana artist, activist and scholar, Judy Baca, the arch commemorates Mexican-American labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez through images of his life and work. The structure is based on a Mayan corbelled arch design with Spanish and indigenous roots and features mosaic tile murals. The exterior pillars depict Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, and Mahatma Gandhi, whose philosophy of non-violence was an inspiration to Chavez are presented as two pillars for the work of the United Farm Workers Union, which is represented at the top of the arch through it’s symbol- the eagle.
The opposite side pillars depict a male and female farm worker from the Salinas Valley, while the interior of the arch is dedicated to a portrait of Chavez, a nod from Baca to the activist’s humble nature. The Virgin of Guadalupe symbolically blesses Chavez’s actions, while a skull represents the deaths of farm workers from pesticides.
Placed adjacent to the Student Union building and off of an important pedestrian passageway, the Arch is designed to be circumambulated and entered. For Baca, as students and visitors to SJSU move through the arch and learn of Chavez and his work, their own bodies are symbolically transformed from witnesses to activists.
“The Arch of Dignity, Equality, and Justice,” is a reminder that the work to achieve dignity, equality and justice is often borne by those who have been denied those basic human rights. The Mahatma Gandhi inclusion traces the genealogy of resistance against those forces that denied the parity of respect to all human beings over the course of the century. Resistance to the denial of civil and human rights is referenced by the presence of Dolores Huerta, who with Cesar Chavez led the United Farm Workers in their struggle for equal rights.
The United Farm Workers symbol of the eagle is a reference to the work of the organization as well as a reminder of the connection between the Indigneous peoples of California and Mexico. We invite you to walk through the arch as a symbolic starting point for your journey through this walking tour. The next public artwork will be right in front of you.
Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in San Jose. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.
The Arch of Dignity, Equality and Justice on Map
Walking Tours in San Jose, California
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