They abound in alleyways and street corners across Southern California: murals awash in bright red, turquoise green and cobalt blue beckoning with images of faith, hope and redemption.

Public art that expresses faith in Our Lady of Guadalupe, along with other Catholic icons and saints, is steeped in historical tradition and cultural significance, and serves an important role in connecting faith communities across Los Angeles and Orange counties.

A photo of a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Art + Culture

Exploring the influence of Catholic faith and the presence of the Virgin Mary in urban art

Featuring conversations with:

Journalist and author of “Least of Us” and “The Virgin of the American Dream”

Sam Quinones is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist who has reported across the Americas for more than three decades. Known for his in-depth journalism for the Los Angeles Times about Mexican immigrants and immigration issues, Quinones documents Our Lady of Guadalupe murals across Los Angeles in his new book of photographs, “The Virgin of the American Dream: Guadalupe on the Walls of Los Angeles.”

His project began in 2011 while Quinones worked for the Los Angeles Times. He began taking quick snapshots from his car of the many murals of the Virgin of Guadalupe he encountered on the street.

Along the way, he found business owners turned to her for protection for their small yet precious investments in markets, furniture and sewing shops, and taco stands.

Quinones’s project evolved over the years into more involved photographs and text that formed a book on the importance of Guadalupe to Mexican immigrants as they confronted the new world they found in Los Angeles.

Through these years, meanwhile, his reporting on the Opioid epidemic in the U.S. earned international accolades and resulted in two books: “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic” and “The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth.”

In addition to the Los Angeles Times, his journalism has appeared in National Geographic, Pacific Standard Magazine, the New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, along with other publications.

Learn more about Sam Quinones and his work.

Muralist and Executive Director of the Homeboy Industries Art Academy

Fabian Debora is a renowned Chicano artist based in East Los Angeles. His street art and murals capture immigrant and gang experiences in Los Angeles. His works often feature Catholic themes and include graffiti, murals, sketches and fine art paintings.

Born in El Paso, Texas, Debora was raised in Boyle Heights. A former gangmember, he has battled incarceration, violence, poverty and substance abuse. After attempting suicide in 2006, Debora had a religious experience where he says he interacted with God, who led him on a path of redemption and a career as an educator, counselor and celebrated artist. A certified licensed drug counselor, Debora serves as executive director of the Homeboy Art Academy, which provides support and arts education to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated youth and adults.

Debora’s award-winning art lines streets across Southern California, is showcased in solo and group exhibitions throughout the U.S. and Latin America, and is featured in private collections around the globe.

Learn more about Fabian Debora and his work.

Conversations moderated by:

Nancy Pineda-Madrid

Professor of theology, Loyola Marymount University

Rev. Dorian Llywelyn

Past president, Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at USC