A giant portrait of a doctor has been painted in a parking lot in New York. From Jorge Rodriquez-Gerada it was painted in the car park of the Queens Museum and features the image of Yldefonso Decoo. A pediatrician who died fighting Covid-19 in New York City.
Called ‘Somos La Luz’ it means ‘We Are The Light’ in Spanish. By portraying Yldefonso Decoo, it is by association also paying tribute to other Latino care givers in the city. “I am creating this piece because of the disproportionate amount of Latinos that have died in the area” says Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada. Hispanic workers form a large percentage of front line workers in New York City and so have been more at risk of exposure.
Impact on Minority Communities
“But this is not only about New York City” says Gerada. “The disproportionate loss of life is now
evident across the nation”. The anti-immigrant discourse taking place in the US is something which the artist worries about. There have, says Gerada, been serious repercussions on the health of minority communities because of it. A lack of health insurance, fear of deportation and the inability to pay are all factors. Taken together it creates an environment where undocumented migrants are discouraged from asking for help.
There is a disparate rate of new cases and deaths between the low income and wealthier communities. “Not everyone can decide to not go to work” says Gerada. “Not everyone can just stay home and still have the money to buy food and necessities for months on end”. Economic inequality is a crucial factor when comes to who is impacted by Covid-19. Social distancing and isolating can often be impossible. This is especially true where there are large and extended families living in close proximity to each other. Circumstances forced upon them due to financial constraints.
Yldefonso Decoo was a doctor who died when fighting the virus. A hispanic caregiver he was one of many who risked their lives for others. ‘Somo La Luz’ recognises this in him and by association with those others as well. “It highlights their contribution while at the same time calling for action” says Gerada.
“As an artist, I am committed to bringing attention to social issues that need to be
addressed. The large-scale works that I have created around the world all convey that we
need to come together to make the world a better place. The size of my large-scale works is
directly related to the importance of the theme. This artwork “Somos La Luz” strives to give deeper meaning to the loss of a stranger’s life, it strives to remind us that we are all part of the “One Nation, Under God.”
The mural of Yldefonso Decoo by Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada in Queens, New York was painted in May 2020. The mural itself was ephemeral and meant to wash away. This too was representative of the lives already lost in the covid-19 tragedy.
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