I really haven’t done that many murals, but since I was the first Mexican-American in the U.S.A. to start painting murals for the new public art movement in 1968, I’m in history books related to this movement. Actually it was in 1964 at Lane Technical High School in Chicago, when I first started to paint murals. The mural Castillo worked with a team of students, received an award in 1965 and it was mounted in the main office at Lane Tech. There I was surrounded by major fresco works and WPA murals. At the time I was also aware of the pre-Columbian frescos of the Maya and Teotihuacanos and the three major Mexican muralists, Los Tres Grandes Rivera, Orozco an Siqueiros.
It was not until 1968 when I painted the first Chicano and first anti Viet Nam war mural, “Peace” or Metafisica, as it came to be known at the Halsted Urban Progress Center on Halsted Street and Cullerton in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, that I painted a mural outdoors. When I painted this, I was not aware of Bill Walker’s Wall of Respect which he painted in 1967. I simply was basing my stimulus on what I had done in 1964 at Lane Tech and also my Mexican Heritage. Then in 1969 I painted The Wall of Brotherhood at 18th Street and Halsted Street also in Pilsen. This second mural which was about two blocks away from “Peace” was painted by a group of students from different ethnic backgrounds. Because of this and its theme, The Wall of Brotherhood became the first multicultural mural of the new movement.
Both of these murals paid homage to pre-Colombian cultures, the 2D Design aesthetic of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, for I distinctly wanted to state that these works were not following a Western or European aesthetic. The wall was recognized as a flat plane without giving the illusion of space and perspective. These murals served as the springboard for all the Mexican-American murals which followed in Pilsen.
Also the process by which I painted these has been followed up to the present time. This was to work with community youth and train them in and expose them to art so that they could help paint the mural. This procedure for painting a mural served as a prototype for many murals which followed and are still being painted today.
When I painted Metafisica it didn’t get much publicity but the Wall of Brotherhood did. It was in the news in a couple of TV channels here in Chicago and it was at the same time when man first landed on the moon and the phrase “This is a small step for man and a giant step for mankind” was being heard around the world. Well, I didn’t realize it then, but this small step for me (The painting of the first Latino mural in the USA belonging to the public art movement) was a giant step for my community when the two murals gave birth to a cultural renaissance in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. I had no idea this was going to turn out to be such a big thing. There were the astronauts seeing Earth from space as a small global village and here we were in Pilsen telling the world that we were all one human family with our Wall of Brotherhood. Its focal point had the peace symbol made up of four red arms (hands pointing out) to show that no matter what color the skin was, the blood underneath was the same color.
Since 1990, when I came back to Chicago, I have done several mural workshops around the Chicago metropolitan area, one out of state, and one in another country. I also started to teach mural painting at Columbia College. We have done five murals there.
Out of the several mural workshops I have given, three stand out as being the best:
1. World cultures mural at Triton College, 1997
2. The University of Guadalajara workshop, in Mexico, 1995
3. The Traces of Humanity Mural at Omaha, Nebraska, 1996