City Lights Banners & Zapatista Mural

City Lights Store Banners

For the past five years, City Lights has been collaborating with the SF Print Collective on a series of provocative banners that adorn the façade of the bookstore. This is an ongoing project to claim public space for meaningful expression, an alternative to the advertising and propaganda that usually bombards us from all sides as we walk or drive through the city.

The banners are intended to capture a spirit of debate and dissent, providing commentary on current events and/or messages being sent to us by the government and corporate media. They are meant to stimulate passersby into dialogue and reflection, and these latest were unfurled in June, timed to reach the waves of visitors who come to San Francisco from all over the U.S. and beyond, and who we hope will carry the image and the message – and its impact – with them.

"Two Plus Two is Five.
The Earth is Flat.
God is on Our Side.
War Will Make Us Safe.
Mission Accomplished."

June 2005
Photograph © Patrick Piazza

"Tyranny cuts off the singer's head
But the voice from the bottom of the well
Returns to the secret springs of the earth
And rises out of nowhere through the mouths of the people"

–Pablo Neruda, translated by Alistair Reid

June 2003
Photograph © Larry Keenan
Neruda Banner
Stop War and War Makers Banner

"Stop War and War Makers"

November 2002
Photograph © Edward Brooks

"Dissent is Not UnAmerican"

October 2001
Photograph © Larry Keenan
Dissent is Not UnAmerican Banner

All banners were designed by the SF Print Collective

The Zapatista Mural in Kerouac Alley

On April 11, 1998, Taniperla, a village of some fifteen hundred Tzeltal Mayan campesinos, was invaded by the Mexican Army. At dawn on that day, an armed force of one thousand federal troops entered the village. The army arrested local leaders, burned houses, cornfields and coffee plantations, and occupied the village. Along with several other Mexican nationals, Sergio Valdéz was beaten and arrested. The mural Vida y sueños de la cañada Perla [Life and Dreams of the Perla River Valley] was demolished. Twelve international human rights workers, including three Bay Area residents who happened to be in the village at the time of the invasion, were arrested and held by the federal police for 36 hours before being deported and permanently barred from ever returning to Mexico. Zapatista Mural
Zapatista Mural
Over a year later, the village remains occupied by the Federal Army, and several similar invasions have occurred throughout Chiapas. Sergio Valdéz was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of "rebellion" for having designed the mural. Over the past few months, however, after almost a year-and-a-half of protest and pressure from human rights organizations, Sergio and many of the other prisoners from Taniperla have been freed. After a year in Cerro Hueco prison, Sergio is now able to continue his work educating people about the conflict in Chiapas, but many of the other political prisoners remain in dire circumstances.

Although the original mural was destroyed, photos of it have been preserved and shared. Shortly after the invasion of the village, the international witnesses to the invasion (who were deported and banned from Mexico in violation of the Mexican constitution and international law), began a campaign to reproduce the mural in sites around the world as a gesture of support for the indigenous peoples' struggle for justice with dignity. Thus far, the mural has been painted in Barcelona, Madrid and Bilbao, Spain; Florence, Italy; Mexico City, Oakland, and now, San Francisco, California.

In San Francisco, a group of local artists and activists have painted the mural on the wall of City Lights Books at 261 Columbus Avenue, covering the Jack Kerouac Alley side of the building. The completion of the mural coincides with the remodeling and retrofitting of this historic site.In the sprit of the Zapatista slogan "Todo para todos, nada para nosotros" [Everything for everyone, nothing just for us] the work has been done voluntarily and cooperatively.