CSUMB Salinas Center for Arts and Culture
1 Main Street, Salinas, California 93901
New mural CHAMACOS is created in collaboration with Hijos del Sol Arts Productions. This mural addresses strategies for farm workers to support the health of children and families.
Art and science will blend as a new Salinas mural depicting a renowned local research group’s efforts to understand pesticides’ impacts on farmworkers and their families is unveiled this Friday.
The ideas stem from University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, or CHAMACOS, the longest-running study of pesticides and other environmental exposures in a farmworker community.
The CHAMACOS study began studying pregnant women in the Salinas Valley in 1999. They have since added another cohort, 9-year-olds, to the study, totaling more than 600 participants. “Chamacos” is also Mexican slang for “little children.”
The study’s youth council came up with the idea of using mural as a medium for communicating scientific research. The council is comprised of eight high school youth who were part of the study and are now all going to college, except for one entering the military, said James Nolan, community outreach coordinator for CHAMACOS.
For the study, which focuses on pregnant women and children, the mural’s images go beyond just the beauty of family.
“At once, it’s like the human condition, caring for children,” Nolan said, “but also specifically because pregnant women and young children are at heightened biological vulnerability to chemicals in the environment. It just happens to be a coincidence that it also happens to be beautiful.”
Partnered with Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas and Natividad, the study has provided hundreds of publications, shedding light on critical environmental exposures and health.
CHAMACOS has employed many of the youth council to collect health data from peers. They also recently decided to make the health data more accessible.
Tools and instructors for the mural came from Hijos del Sol Arts Productions, an East Salinas art group that gives youth opportunities to express themselves through art.
“We also had to help them define the rough edges,” Jose Ortiz, director of Hijos del Sol, said. “Because the thing with murals is it has to be everyone’s idea, not just a certain person.”
Images display themes of family and the future, but also educational components from CHAMACOS’ research.
For instance, the center includes a pregnant woman and child sheltered by two hands, which extends out to oak trees growing to signify the next generation.
This family theme is centripetal to much of Ortiz’s work.
While not part of the CHAMACOS cohort, David Rubio, a 21-year-old Hijos del Sol artist and instructor on the mural, remembers his parents coming home from strawberry fields, though he never considered the impact pesticides had on growing crops – and the potential dangers posed for his family.