OJO CALIENTE, N.M. (AP) — A mural of the Virgin Mary in one of the oldest health resorts in North America and in a historic Hispanic and Native American community has been defaced.
The mural of la Virgen de Guadalupe in Ojo Caliente, New Mexico, was recently desecrated after vandals painted over her face and praying hands, The Santa Fe New Mexican reports .
It’s the second time this year that the mural has been vandalized in this close-knit and devoutly Catholic town.
The mural on an old dance hall was first vandalized in January, prompting the community to come together in February to repaint it. But sometime last week, it was defaced again.
Bridget Trujillo, part-owner of Oliver’s Country Store near the mural, said residents feel violated. “When it happened the first time in January, it was such an upsetting experience, and then to have it done again within six months is even more upsetting,” Trujillo said.
No arrests made been made.
It was vandalism that gave birth to the mural, residents said.
Around 15 years ago, a high school student spray-painted a marijuana leaf on the side of the building where the defaced mural now stands.
Luis Peña Jr., 41, who grew up in the neighboring town of Servilleta, said owners of the store were looking to press charges against the student, but a community engagement grant led to the la Virgen de Guadalupe mural project.
The mural has turned into a shrine of sorts with memorial crosses hanging on the wall for two of the original painters, brothers Adolfo and Robert Chavez, who have since died.
While some residents want to put up surveillance cameras and additional lighting, as well as install an anti-graffiti coat over the mural after it is repainted, Peña said he’s somewhat conflicted.
“Yeah, I guess prevention is a good measure to take,” he said. “But that doesn’t change the intent of the person that’s out there. You build a better mousetrap and the mouse just gets smarter, and I really don’t want to start playing the game.”
It’s not known yet if the community will work to get the mural restored.