East San Jose McDonald’s makeover celebrates Latino culture

Rudy and Carmen Lemus own the most beautiful McDonald’s in San Jose, if not the entire Bay Area. That’s because their Story Road at Capitol Expressway location, one of four in San Jose, was chosen as one of a few to receive a Latino-themed artistic makeover as part of Ritmo y Color, a nationwide McDonald’s initiative to celebrate Latino culture.

Hector Covarrubias, a San Jose muralist, was commissioned earlier this year to transform the eatery, and he created a colorful mural called “Patterns of Nature.” Monarch butterflies, green cacti tipped with orange blossoms, bright pink dahlias, and a turquoise-and-yellow bird known as a torogoz in El Salvador, where it is the national bird, are among the elements in his design, which was installed this week.

McDonald’s introduced Ritmo y Color in 2021, and the San Jose location was one of six chosen for artistic makeovers this year. Other locations include New York, San Antonio, Dallas, Chicago, and Miami. In previous years, cities with large Latino populations such as Houston, Phoenix, and Los Angeles were chosen.

“We were overjoyed to be chosen. “We think this will be fantastic for our community,” said Carmen Lemus, who began working at McDonald’s at the age of 16 and met her future husband there. “They’ll be made to feel welcome when they come here.”

Covarrubias, who was born in Mexico, said he wanted the mural to reflect a diverse range of Latino culture because the San Jose area is home to people from all over Latin America. He chose the torogoz, a common bird in Yucatán, because Carmen Lemus’ family is from El Salvador.

“The main idea behind creating this piece was to make it more appealing to the people who live in this neighborhood,” said Covarrubias, whose art also decorates the restaurant’s interior. “Creating a mural can change the environment and people’s vibes.” Perhaps if you’re having a bad day, you’ll pass by and notice this, and it will brighten your day.”

Normally, Covarrubias paints his murals directly on the walls, but this one was installed with vinyl sheeting. This meant that the McDonald’s restaurant would not have to be covered in scaffolding and partially closed during the installation process. Instead, the procedure took less than a day and is expected to last for years.

Covarrubias said he appreciates the chance to earn a commission from a multinational corporation like McDonald’s, but he’s not looking for accolades. He’s already planning to make art at the Burning Man festival next month before heading to France to work on a project in Cannes.

ABOUT THE ART: Bring your family to the Santa Clara County Fair for the carnival rides and corn dogs, but stay for the art. The Fair collaborated with the 1Culture gallery in downtown San Jose on a “artists’ alley” in the Gateway Hall building, which features the work of several Santa Clara Valley artists (including Hector Covarrubias) inside and live-painting of murals on its exterior walls.

The miniature models created by San Jose artist and musician P.Locz are one of the highlights inside. He has three scenes on display: a miniature of the fairgrounds entrance, complete with the iconic arch; a tribute to the fruit growers and cannery workers, complete with a miniature version of a Del Monte water tower; and, my favorite, a detail-perfect replica of the Wienerschnitzel on Santa Clara Street across from Roosevelt Park, complete with lowriders in the parking lot. The fair, which appears to be making a comeback with the longest run in decades, is open until Sunday. Tickets and schedules are available at www.thefair.org.

Of course, with the return of the South First Fridays art walk and the summer street market in downtown’s SoFA District, there’s plenty of art to see this week. South First Street galleries and other venues will stay open late as artists and vendors take over a section of the street between San Carlos and William streets. www.southfirstfridays.com has the complete lineup of new and returning shows, as well as special receptions.

SLIDE AND SKATE AWAY: If you remember Cal Skate and Splashdown, two Milpitas attractions that were popular in the 1980s, you’ll appreciate Retro Milpitas, an effort by the city’s recreation department to recreate the vibes of the past. From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, the Milpitas Sports Center on Calaveras Boulevard will be transformed into a time machine.

Roller skating, water slides, DJs, food trucks, and bands will all be available. The Billy Martini band will perform ’70s and ’80s hits on Friday, and Other People’s Money will perform hits from the 1990s and 2000s on Saturday, both beginning at 6:30 p.m. More information is available at www.milpitas.gov/1040/Retro-Milpitas. By the way, I deserve to be thrown off the ice for misspelling Milpitas Mayor Carmen Montano’s name in my column this week about the celebrity grape-stomping at History Park’s Italian Family Festa. I’ll have to root for her to win against fellow mayors Matt Mahan of San Jose and Lisa Gillmor of Santa Clara at 2 p.m.

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