City Lights Banners & Zapatista Mural



In the election season of 2000, City Lights began a collaboration with the SF Print Collective, a local group making graphic art to support social justice movements. The aim was to reclaim public space for meaningful expression, creating an alternative to the advertising and propaganda that surrounds us on all sides as we walk or drive through the city. 

What began with one banner, an endorsement for a local anti-gentrification proposition, quickly grew into a series of carefully planned, 5-panel banners that adorned the façade of the City Lights Bookstore.

Situated at the corner of a heavily trafficked intersection in a neighborhood that receives waves of visitors from all over the U.S. and beyond, City Lights occupies a highly visible street presence. The banners on our building are meant to stimulate passersby into dialogue and reflection. The hope is that those who are impacted will carry the image and the message with them.

In the summer of 2017, in response to the government's ongoing deportation program and its plan to become even more aggressive in the deportations of immigrants currently living in the United States, City Lights entered into a collaboration with a local refugee advocacy group, the New American Story Project. Working closely with NASP, we joined forces with the Centro Legal de la Raza and Forward Together to create this latest public art installation. Our goal was to generate awareness and understanding. We want you to see them and ask, "Who are they? Why are they here? What are their stories? How can I support immigrants in my own community?"


"Nothing is harder on the soul than the smell of dreams while they are evaporating."

–Mahmoud Darwish

Stop the deportations!

July 2017

"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.