Pan dulce and tacos were Mike Ramos’ go-to orders at La Mexicana Bakery in South Austin. Now the building is home to a mural painted in his honor after he was fatally shot by Austin police.
Mike’s mother, Brenda Ramos, asked Austin-based artist Chris Rogers to create the mural in early June. Brenda contacted Rogers after he painted a mural on the wall of Native Hostel in downtown Austin. The image depicted a burning city below the faces of George Floyd, Mike Ramos, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin with the words “We can’t breathe” written above them.
The mural was completed in early September and portrays Mike wearing Longhorn gear surrounded by the UT Tower, the Texas Capitol and more Austin landmarks. Rogers said Brenda requested the mural feature UT imagery because Mike was a big Texas football fan.
“I am painting for more than just myself,” Rogers said. “I am painting with a message and with a cause. I am painting to give voices to people that are marginalized and silenced.”
Rogers said La Mexicana was eager to donate the wall space for the mural.
“We’re doing this for the community, and we wanted to try and do anything we could to help Mrs. Ramos,” assistant manager Jesus Becerra Jr. said.
Becerra said the mural is a way to share Rogers’ message and create change. Rogers said he wants to spread awareness about police brutality and keep Mike’s memory alive through his work.
"I like it to be a visual buffet, but I like to convey a story and tell a message," Rogers said. “And with this particular message, I wanted it to be a message of truth.”
Theatre studies freshman Valeria Nájera Zavala walked by La Mexicana one day while exploring Austin. She said the mural was unlike anything she had ever seen before.
“With a mural this big and bright in South Austin, you can’t miss it,” Zavala said. “Now it will be a reminder to everyone and to society about who Mike Ramos was and what happened to him.”
Rogers said he strives to integrate activism into his art. The muralist said he has been painting since he was 18 years old and most of his work features Black and brown icons.
“One of the things that allows me to create my best work is my most honest work,'' Rogers said. “It’s when I’m not painting for likes and accolades or what other people think but when I’m painting what is in my heart.”
With over 7,500 followers on his Instagram, Rogers said he believes it is important to use both his art and social media to speak out against injustice.
“It’s been serendipitous in the past decade or so to be able to use my voice for Black and brown people,” Rogers said. “It’s a dream come true to be able to do what I love for a living and have it affect people in a positive way.”