New VHS mural projects the colors of local activism


The Dolores Huerta mural had a ribbon cutting ceremony on June 1, 2022. Photo by: Adi DeClerk

Junior Mateo Navarro organized the Dolores Huerta Unity Project alongside Ventura Unified administration, the Latino Rights club, Ventura County community members and artist Mauricio Ramirez

These were the flyers which were posted around the community by Navarro. Photo from: Mateo Navarro

Mateo Navarro, a VHS junior, participates in track and cross country, is co-president of the Latino Rights Club, current vice-president of ASB and is set to be ASB president in the 2022-23 school year. In his most recent venture, he led the Dolores Huerta Unity Project. “It’s kind of my baby,” said Navarro. Navarro led a presentation about Dolores Huerta for the Latino Rights Club at the beginning of the year, and by June, the mural honoring her was finished. 

On Wednesday, June 1, 2022, the Dolores Huerta Unity Project Mural was unveiled. Painted by Mauricio Ramirez on the side of the Main Street gym, the mural depicts Dolores Huerta surrounded by symbols of Ventura county, from strawberries to Two Trees. District board president Sabrena Rodriguez, VHS principal Marissa Cervantes,

Navarro had fundraising opportunities at different community functions, as pictured above. Photo from: Mateo Navarro

district superintendent Roger Rice, assistant principal Elizabeth Botello-Lopez, Latino Rights club members and VHS students were among some of those in attendance. The mural required thousands of dollars in community funding and lots of organization, both of which were led by Navarro.

Navarro got the inspiration for the project because as a co-president of the Latino Rights Club, he wanted to see more Latino representation on campus. “The last time we had any good representation was MECHA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán) which was an organization in the 90’s, and we haven’t had anything since then. One of our first projects in the Latino rights club was we wanted to highlight an influential Latino leader and she was our first pick. And I just ran with it, and I love what she [Huerta] does.” 


Navarro and Huerta met, and Huerta gave her blessing on the mural. Photo from: Mateo Navarro

When asked how the Latino Rights club differs from MECHA, Navarro said, “MECHA was an organization in the 90’s led by Mr. Castillo and other counselors and teachers here today. It was the same thing, it was a lot of representation, maybe not as much like activism. It was more of a cultural celebration, and yeah, representation. The way that our club is going is more activism at the end of the year and for next year.” 

Freshman Latino Rights Club member Alexa Hernandez appreciates having the mural on campus. “This mural means a lot of unity, especially for everybody

Navarro teamed up with the Latino Right Club members at Ventura County landmarks to fundraise. Seen here near the Ventura Pier. Photo from: Mateo Navarro

in our community, especially for Latinos and all the other people who have worked in the fields. This mural of Dolores Huerta is just so beautiful and it represents all the change that she has brought,” said Hernandez. Hernandez’s favorite part is “Huerta herself.” “It’s such a beautiful portrait of her and it shows a lot of creativity, especially with the type of art this is. It’s very cool,” said Hernandez.


Dolores Huerta is currently 92 years old and still resides in Ventura County.  Navarro chose Huerta because of her unique approach to activism. “She is so awesome. She was pretty integral in the 70’s Chicano Rights [and] Labor Rights movement. She worked alongside Caesar Chavez in the creation of the UFW, which is the United Farm Workers Association. She was big in a

Navarro organized the construction of signs to spread awareness on the project. Photo from: Mateo Navarro

lot of places like Delano, where she did her grape strike, which basically boycotted big companies who supported this unfair labor justice, without good sanitation or bathrooms, or didn’t approve unionization for better wages. But she also had an impact in Oxnard too, and she came through and it’s where she formulated her connection with Caesar Chavez, locally. So, she’s really cool! I love her mostly because of her activism, although she’s very outspoken and she does a lot of speeches to big crowds, she was the type of activist where she went into peoples’ homes and talked to them individually and actually made that personal connection with her supporters that you rarely see from activists nowadays,” said Navarro.


Navarro specifically selected artist Mauricio Ramirez due to his Latino roots and distinctive art style. “He’s really cool… He is living in Chicago, but he was born and raised in Oxnard, so he was super fun in this project because he has roots here… His art is very geometric and has very vibrant colors. He likes working, painting specifically influential Latino leaders. He just recently completed a mural for the Bucks. He’s one of the kindest guys I know, super responsive and super, super communicative. So, he’s super cool.” It took Ramirez one week to complete the mural. Students from some classes were given the opportunity to paint small sections. 

Artist Mauricio Ramirez gave his take on his time creating the mural. “It’s been such a great experience, especially working around the campus. Usually, a lot of my work features being out in the public and out in the streets. It was nice to work on a campus, a closed space and a private space.” 

Ramirez also noted that it was his first time working with a student leader. “It was definitely a new experience. Usually I work with leadership but he’s [Navarro] just as much of a leader as a principal. He’s very proactive and got things rolling. It feels great especially collaborating with Mateo; I’m sure he feels great about it. It’s as good

Navarro posted photos (such as the one above) on social media to encourage donations for the project. Photo from: Mateo Navarro

as it gets, especially being able to inspire the youth and have this be an indicator of confidence,” said Ramirez.


Navarro was most deeply involved in this project because he ran the community fundraising for the mural. “We had our funds from ASB and our district, but it was a lot of going door to door. It was that hard, entrance foot-in-the-door technique, where you have to go and talk to businesses,” said Navarro. Navarro was in contact with businesses like Lalo’s, Taqueria Tepatitlan, Taqueria Vallarta and Jersey Mikes.

The Latino Rights Club at the outside of the Main Street Gym, the location of the Dolores Huerta Unity Project Mural. Photo from: Mateo Navarro

The community aspect of the project was not just about money. “Even if I don’t get funds from the community, at least I get to see faces to spread the word of the project,” said Navarro. Along with going door-to-door, Navarro also ran a Venmo dedicated to the mural, put up flyers all over town, had fundraising tables at community events and held bake sales on the Senior Lawn.


Navarro also gave thanks to other members of the Ventura community for their aid in the project. “I’ve worked with a couple of people,” said Navarro, “I would say the district has been pretty huge because we have needed to go through facilities, risk and business department– all those people. Ms. Larson and Ms. Botello have been so incredibly helpful; I pester them all the time. I’ve talked to Ms. Bermudez– Anna Bermudez– she is a curator at the Museum of Ventura County. She has hooked me up with being able to actually talk to Dolores Huerta, and get chances to spread the news of the mural throughout Ventura County, so she was super integral as well.”

On the day of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Navarro said, “I feel more grounded and more centered having this thing finally up.” When asked how he wants other students to feel when they see the mural, Navarro said, “I hope that you see this face and you see somebody that can empower you and drive you further each and every day.”