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This mosaic by Juan Angel Chavez and Jeff Zimmermann at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School depicts the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius, and other Jesuit leaders and symbols.
This mosaic by Juan Angel Chavez and Jeff Zimmermann at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School depicts the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius, and other Jesuit leaders and symbols.
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Spirituality often a theme of murals and mosaics in and around Pilsen, Little Village

One place stands out. Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, 1852 W. 22nd Pl., showcases a number of religious mosaics created in the early 2000s.

In Chicago’s Mexican American communities, murals and mosaics are commonplace, many featuring spiritual figures, biblical stories and the Day of the Dead.

But one place stands out. Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, 1852 W. 22nd Pl., showcases a number of religious-themed mosaics that were created in the early 2000s.

One, at Cermak Road and Wolcott Avenue, depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe at the top along with images of students and symbols of the school’s mission.

A mosaic at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe in the top corner and images of students and symbols of the school’s mission.
A mosaic at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe in the top corner and images of students and symbols of the school’s mission.
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An alternate name for Jesus’ mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe is said to have appeared to indigenous Mexican Saint Juan Diego in 1531. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe can be seen around Pilsen and Little Village in doorways and storefronts and other places.

Paintings of St. Jude and Our Lady of Guadalupe on a building on 18th Street in Pilsen.
Paintings of St. Jude and Our Lady of Guadalupe on a building on 18th Street in Pilsen.
Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Chicago artists Cynthia Weiss and Juan Angel Chavez designed the mosaic at Cristo Rey, choosing Our Lady of Guadalupe because she is “so important in the cultural life of Mexican families,” Weiss says.

Chavez worked with Chicago artist Jeff Zimmermann on several mosaics on the West 22nd Place side of the school, too. He says the works represent the traditions of the Jesuit religious order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Zimmermann also did a giant mural at Cullerton Street and Ashland Avenue portraying the Rev. Charles Dahm from nearby St. Pius V Church, 1901 S. Ashland Ave., baptizing an infant.

Jeff Zimmermann says of his baptism mural: “They dunk the baby, and then the priest turns around and kind of holds the baby up with one hand like a basketball, and everyone applauds.”
Jeff Zimmermann says of his baptism mural: “They dunk the baby, and then the priest turns around and kind of holds the baby up with one hand like a basketball, and everyone applauds.”
Robert Herguth / Sun-Times
This mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe — done by Jeff Zimmermann — can be found near St. Pius V Catholic Church with two other panels representing the hard work and success of immigrants.
This mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe — done by Jeff Zimmermann — can be found near St. Pius V Catholic Church with two other panels representing the hard work and success of immigrants.
Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Another vibrant Our Lady of Guadalupe mural — begun by Miguel A. Del Real in 2017 but still in progress — spans the side of a building at Cullerton and Wood streets near Pilsen.

“It’s definitely a mural that’s more for the community in terms of the majority of what the community kind of believes in,” Del Real says.

Miguel A. Del Real’s mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Cullerton and Wood streets.
Miguel A. Del Real’s mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Cullerton and Wood streets.
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At Carpenter and Cullerton streets, New Jersey artist Layqa Nuna Yawar completed a mural in 2015 using the trope of the Pietà, a Christian art subject of Mary holding Jesus after the crucifixion. Yawar says the image speaks of “secular sacrifice and martyrdom.”

Though others might interpret it differently, Yawar says: “To me, it’s not the Virgin Mary, and it’s not Jesus. To me, they’re just space holders for people.”

Layqa Nuna Yawar’s mural of the trope of the Pietà, a Christian art subject of Mary holding Jesus’ body after the crucifixion.
Layqa Nuna Yawar’s mural of the trope of the Pietà, a Christian art subject of Mary holding Jesus’ body after the crucifixion.
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At Little Village’s Amor De Dios United Methodist Church, 2356 S. Sawyer Ave., mosaics done by the Green Star Movement — a nonprofit art program for students and community members — hug the sides of the building.

This mosaic at Amor De Dios United Methodist Church at 2356 S. Sawyer Ave. in Little Village represents giving food to community members in need, according to the church’s pastor.
This mosaic at Amor De Dios United Methodist Church at 2356 S. Sawyer Ave. in Little Village represents giving food to community members in need, according to the church’s pastor.
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Pastor Ramiro Rodriguez says the mosaics at Amor De Dios, created by students from nearby Farragut Career Academy High School, represent the church’s missions, including one, completed in 2016, that portrays food for those in need.

The other, done in 2019, is of a community garden that church members maintain, according to Kamelia Hristeva, founder and chief executive officer of the Green Star Movement.

A mosaic at Amor De Dios United Methodist Church depicts a community garden church members tend to.
A mosaic at Amor De Dios United Methodist Church depicts a community garden church members tend to.
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Adam and Eve can be seen embracing with fruit and a serpent on a wall at 16th Street and Ashland Avenue in a mural done in 2018 by the New York artists who go by the names Menace and Resa.

Menace and Resa painted this mural, titled “Genesis,” of Adam and Eve, a serpent and fruit in 2018.
Menace and Resa painted this mural, titled “Genesis,” of Adam and Eve, a serpent and fruit in 2018.
Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

To commemorate the Day of the Dead, a skull woman stands tall on the side of 2407 S. Kedzie Ave. Chicago artist Claü painted the mural in 2019 as a part of the Little Village arts festival Villarte, placing stars in the woman’s hair to represent femininity and self-love.

This skull woman, completed in 2019 by Claü, represents the Day of the Dead and symbolizes a guide for the spirits of young children to visit their families during the holiday.
This skull woman, completed in 2019 by Claü, represents the Day of the Dead and symbolizes a guide for the spirits of young children to visit their families during the holiday.
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Claü says the woman is a guide for dead children — in particular those killed by guns — who “walk along the path” to visit their living families during the first day of the traditionally two-day long autumn celebration. The woman holds a blue flame to represent the soul of a child.

“I think of kids — they run off the path, or they get distracted, or they’re unsure,” Claü says. “So she walks along the path. They get there. They can cross and visit their families here.”

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