Vibrant flowers, giant skulls, and colorful chili peppers adorn the walls of 16th Street in Phoenix, Arizona. They are a public celebration of a culture as rich as the colors that splash down this corner of the city. Calle 16 has become the epicenter of this Southwestern community, and the story of this transformation starts not at city hall, but in the kitchen of chef Silvana Salcido Esparza.
When Chef Esparza, chef and owner of the popular restaurant, Barrio Cafe, faced discrimination in her community, she didn’t fight the hatred she felt with more hatred. No, instead she started an initiative completely inspired by the same love that courses through her restaurant. And her impact on the community is palpable.
This is a story of persistence and the inspiring outcomes that grace us when love is our weapon of choice in the arena—and it’s one that we can all take note!
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Art—both visual and culinary—has a knack for translating the heart of communities.
There’s almost nothing that expresses love more than food. It represents cultures, family, and nurturing one another from the inside out. Physically filling us with love, it connects us to each other, inspires us, and gives us the energy to do what needs to be done. And just like food, the street art that now fills the walls down Calle 16 is full of the same love; showing the world the beauty and pride in this Phoenix community!
For a quick, wonderful intro to Chef Esparza’s restaurants and the results of the art in Calle 16, take a look at this video from Great Big Story:
Curious to learn a little more about Calle 16 and the people who participated? Check out this video from Arizona PBS!
“There are two distinct languages. There is the verbal, which separates people… and there is the visual that is understood by everybody.” — Yaacov Agam
In the face of discrimination and the threats, the art that this community created showed the beauty that resides inside of them. It celebrates their culture, and now, people travel miles just to take it all in for themselves.
Perhaps this is something we can all apply to our lives. Most, if not all, of the walls residing in us are up because we feel threatened and misunderstood. There’s a tendency to keep what we love to ourselves—to hold it close and protect it from judgment. But the thing is, love is always meant to be shared. It’s the one language that can be understood by anyone.
Art nourishes us from the inside out, just as the food we eat does. So if we want to connect to people we aren’t familiar with, these two routes will show us their hearts clear as day.
For more amazing people sharing the heart of their communities, check out these following articles!
Our art can show so much more than words.
What do your streets and restaurants say about your community? How could art represent you? And how could it lift up your neighbors?
Stay open to new possibilities!
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” —Albert Einstein
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- Great Big Story. “How This Mexican Chef Is Changing Perceptions With Food.” YouTube, Great Big Story, 21 June 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=eikcIIW9rrg&feature=youtu.be. Accessed 23 July 2019. ↩