Autentica Mural

‘Mexico Tradicional’ is a 24ft. x 11.5ft. mural on the back patio of Autentica, a Mexican restaurant located at NE Killingsworth and NE 30th Ave. in Portland, OR.
To learn more about the iconography represented in the mural, you can pause the slideshow at any time and scroll through the images at your own pace by clicking anywhere on the large image. Detailed descriptions will appear below each image.


This mural depicts various aspects of Mexican culture, and was completed during the summer of 2008. It contains 15 life-size figures who highlight some of the beauty and culture of customs found in Mexico. Oswaldo Bibiano, head chef and owner of Autentica, commissioned the piece with the hope of bringing to life some of the traditions found in his native Guerrero, a state located in southwestern Mexico.

photo by Dan Kvitka

Autentica mural sunset-resized

The diver appears to be flying through the air at sunset, just like the divers who jump from cliffs in Acapulco.


"La luna" (the moon) always had a place in the upper righthand corner of the mural. With it's crescent shape turned inward, it keeps watch over everything happening within the piece, and it draws the viewer's eye up to the actual sky. Its quite magical when the real moon is hidden and this corner is lit by the patio lanterns because la luna appears to be up in the sky.


Here is an aerial view from the opposite roof, which is the building that houses Autentica. This perspective, with the street and neighboring houses, gives you a better sense of the scale of the piece. The mural is actually painted on the side of Extracto, a popular Portland cafe. The street that is perpendicular to the mural is NE Killingsworth Ave.

I designed the mural to take advantage of the wall, although there were several obstacles in the way (the fence to the left, and also a fence that was originally up where the righthand side of the mural ends). The garden box was installed at a later date when this fence was knocked down and the restaurant expanded its patio. The composition -with the wrestlers leading the viewer in from the left, and the diver coming in from the right, as well as the loteria cards going up and over the fence on the left - was created to make the most of the shape of the wall space that was available at the start of the project.


Originally the mural appeared on a cream-colored wall, but was later framed by yellow when the restaurant expanded into the adjacent patio space. I wanted to keep the mural in more traditional sepia tones, which worked well for representing historical elements. This splash of color on the back patio, along with a purple fence and blue and pink building exterior is just begging for another mural (this time in color)! Coming soon in the spring of 2015!


This image has been edited to remove the lanterns, fences, and plants in order to see the mural in its entirety a little more clearly.

Photo & editing by Dan Kvitka

wrestler test-resized

'Lucha libre' is the term used for professional wrestling, a very popular sport in Mexico. The wrestlers, wearing colorful masks, are known as 'luchadores'.

A woman dances a traditional Mexican folk dance in a festive costume. The "Jarabe" is considered Mexico’s “national dance”. Many notable dances are found in the state of Guerrero. The three most common dances of the coast of Oaxaca and Guerrero are the Devil Dance, the Turtle Dance and the Toro de Petate (Straw Bull Dance), all of which are tied to the area’s Afro-Mexican communities.

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A bread carrier rides his bicycle through town with a wicker basket balancing on his head delivering "bolillos", or oval-shaped rolls.

Surrounding the central figures is a Mariachi band. Mariachi is a form of folk music from Mexico. The musicians wear traditional "charro" (Mexican horseman) outfits.

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Pancho Villa (L) and Emiliano Zapata (R) sit at a table playing la loteria with two "soldaderas" (female soldiers).

The men were leading figures in the Mexican Revolution (between 1910-1920), as Pancho Villa was "Commander of the División del Norte (Division of the North)" and Emiliano Zapata was "Commander of the Ejército Libertador del Sur (Liberation Army of the South)".

The women went into combat alongside men during the Mexican Revolution. Life for soldaderas was especially hard, as they joined the revolution by brutal force and were not treated well. Others accompanied the men they loved into battle, caring for them, finding and cooking food, and carrying supplies and children. Many women first joined the army in disguise as males in an attempt to achieve equality. Soldaderas played a vital role and are often the forgotten heroes.

cropped fiddler
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Autentica diver cropped

The La Quebrada Cliff Divers are a group of professional high divers, based in Acapulco, Mexico. They perform daily shows for the public, which involve diving 115ft. from the cliffs of La Quebrada into the sea below.

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A young woman makes fresh corn tortillas on a traditional "comal" (heavy cast iron griddle). The "masa" (corn dough) is kneaded, flattened with a tortilla press, and then heated. Every night at Autentica, a woman stands over a griddle to produce fresh handmade tortillas that go right to the tables for patrons to enjoy.

On the right a woman sits at the "mercado" (market) selling goods such as flowers, fruits and vegetables, hand painted pottery, and baskets.

Autentica mural-loteria strip resized

La lotería ("lottery") is a Mexican game of chance, similar to bingo. Every image has a name and an assigned number. Each player has at least one "tabla", a board with a randomly created grid of pictures with the corresponding name and number. When the caller ("cantor", or singer) draws a card from the deck, he or she announces it and the players match the word with its pictogram. The goal is to be the first to complete a row, traditionally marked off on the board by pinto beans or small rocks.

When I had first learned of this game, I thought that it would be a great way to frame the mural. The cards each have a deliberate place in the mural, as I wanted to pair images together that worked well with the overall composition, as well as with each other (i.e. there are no figures next to other figures, plant life next to other plant life, animals next to animals, and so on). The numbers assigned to each card were randomly placed while trying to avoid any kind of numerical order/placing identical digits near each other.

The texture of the wall worked well for shading some of the cards (usually where there was a lighter image that I wanted to have pop), as I rubbed the acrylic paint into the rough surface so that the border would have some kind of color variation.

Top row, L-R: mermaid; harp; parrot; drum; rose; bottle

Middle row, L-R: brave; fish; umbrella; mandolin; deer; sun

Bottom row, L-R: lady; flag; tree; flamingo; bell; boot

***The loteria images in my mural are inspired by the Don Clemente La Loteria Series 1 collection from the 1980's.

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Each lotería image became it's own little painting on the wall, as I sectioned each one off with a T-square and then decided where to place objects, figures, plants, animals, etc. All of the numbers and Spanish words found in each loteria card are hand-stenciled, one number or letter at a time. "EL Gallo" is always number 1, so I had the rooster stand on a banner in the center of the mural to commemorate the opening of the restaurant, Autentica. I had fun as these cards took on a life of their own, and made many edits throughout the process if I didn't feel like a particular card worked well in a row with surrounding cards.

Top row, L-R: spider; musician; moon; palm tree; barrel; ladder

Middle row, L-R: watermelon; gondola; water pitcher; crown; the dandy; flower pot

Bottom row, L-R: arrows; rooster; heart; drunkard; cactus; baby bonnet

***The loteria images in my mural are inspired by the Don Clemente La Loteria Series 1 collection from the 1980's.

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