Painting strikes deep: Artist restores Golden Hill mural, captures new revolution

The mural outside Golden Hill Liquor Store.
The mural outside Golden Hill Liquor Store on B Street was restored by artist Mario Torero Saturday, June 13, after it was vandalized earlier that week.
(Andrea Lopez-Villafaña / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Artist Mario Torero restored 42-year-old mural outside Golden Hill Liquor Store after it was vandalized.


Artist Mario Torero Monday sang the lyrics of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What it’s Worth” — an anti-war anthem originally inspired by youth-lead protests over police brutality in Los Angeles — to explain how he is responding to an anonymous tagger who spray-painted on one of his murals in Golden Hill.

“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear,” he sang during a telephone interview.

The San Diego muralist and activist spent Saturday restoring his mural outside Golden Hill Liquor Store, which was vandalized three weeks ago.

Someone had painted the words, “Paranoia strikes deep” — a line from “For What it’s Worth,” —
and painted black squares over the mouths of two faces on the mural.

Torero — who originally painted the Golden Hill mural in 1978 with the help of teens in the neighborhood — recognized the lyric from the 1966 Buffalo Springfield song.

The tagger was not defacing the 42-year-old mural, Torero said; the tagger was adding to the conversation.

Torero painted over the tagging Saturday but incorporated the message he believes the tagger was trying to deliver: Revolution.

“Everyone thinks life is going back to normal,” Torero said. “Nothing is going back to normal.”

Torero painted face masks over the faces that were covered with black squares as a representation of the coronavirus pandemic, which has cost the lives of more than 435,000 people worldwide and put millions of Americans out of work.

He added to the mural the face of George Floyd, the Black man who died on Memorial Day after a White Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s death has spurred several weeks of demonstrations and calls for police reform and racial justice across the nation.

Torero also kept the “For What it’s Worth” lyric the tagger wrote on the mural, as a nod to the graffiti artist, he said.

Torero sees a connection between the protests and riots in the 1960’s and ‘70’s and the unrest now, he said.
Like the youth-led protests against police back then, Black Lives Matter protests are largely being organized by young leaders.

“It’s almost like they were trying to bring the mural back to the people ... like the mural is talking to the people about what is going on right now,” Torero said.

“For What it’s Worth,” performed by Buffalo Springfield, a folk-rock group led by Stephen Stills and Neil Young, originally described a 1966 clash between police and young people on the Sunset Strip. It later became an anti-war and anti-establishment anthem.

Torero is no stranger to having his murals vandalized.

Over the years several of his murals in Chicano Park in Barrio Logan have required restoration.

Most recently Torero’s mural of Mexico’s Zapatista rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos in Chicano Park was vandalized, and a mural on 32nd Street and Imperial Avenue of civil rights leaders was painted over with white paint.

He plans to restore those next.