Newport House Caps Renovation with Unveiling of New Mural

A new mural in the basement of Newport, designed by Colectivo Moriviví and painted by a rotating team of community members, celebrates Latinx community both at Amherst and in the larger diaspora. 

Newport House Caps Renovation with Unveiling of New Mural
The new mural, designed by Puerto Rican artists in collaboration with La Causa, is designed to represent both local and broader Latinx communities. Photo courtesy of Naomi Habtu ’24.

The college unveiled a mural in the basement of Newport House, a theme house for Spanish-speaking and Latinx students, on Wednesday, Feb. 28th. The mural, which covers three walls with vibrant colors and imagery that represent both Latin America and the college, was designed by Amherst students and Puerto Rican artists from Colectivo Moriviví, an all-women art collective based in Puerto Rico.

The mural is part of a larger renovation project at Newport, which was completed in the fall of 2023, aimed at addressing issues such as mold and infestations.

Associate Professor of Spanish Catherine Infante gave the event’s opening speech, explaining that the mural is a representation of diverse communities that span geographies from Amherst, Holyoke, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and across Latin America.

She believes it is “really significant” that the mural was painted by not only one individual, but a collection of students, faculty, artists, and community members.

Emiliana Knauer ’27 was one volunteer who helped paint the mural. She felt it was a great opportunity for community building. She added that she went with her friends and enjoyed the opportunity to practice her Spanish.

Colectivo Moriviví visited Knauer’s Spanish class and explained their inspiration for the mural, “which made it more meaningful while I was painting,” she said.

President Michael Elliott gave a brief speech that applauded the dedication of the students who made the mural possible.

“I think about the many, many students who will be down here for generations, and reflect on what it means to be in a place where these words have power, and there will be a lasting effect. And that's what public art does,” he said, in reference to the poem featured on the mural that was written by students in Senior Lecturer Carmen Granda’s “Finding Your Bilingual Voice” class.

After Elliott spoke, Sharon Gonzalez Colón and Raysa Rodríguez García, co-founders of Colectivo Moriviví, spoke. “We’ve worked a lot with the Puerto Rican diaspora, but this product really allowed us to hear more from other places and learn more from other countries,” Colón said, which was “very special.”

Colón hopes that people who feel a sense of kinship with Latin America “can come here and find refuge for a while, and remember your roots.”

“I want to say gracias, thank you, to all, because this has been a really, really beautiful experience,” Rodríguez García expressed. “Not only to have the opportunity to work with these amazing students, but also to think further about how to be a Latinx in a space like this.”

Co-President of La Casa, the Latinx cultural house within Newport, Piero Campos ’25, also spoke.

“I want you guys to understand that Newport is your safe space, Newport is your house, La Casa, it all belongs to you,” he said.

Co-President of La Casa Armando García ’25 read the poem, written in Spanish and English, on the mural.

“Soy de inmigrantes / I want to make my parents proud — orgullosos / I want to recognize what they’ve done for me — sus sacrificios / Soy una mezcla / A blend of different worlds, a colorful / mosaic,” part of the poem reads.

In an interview with The Student, Campos said that the unveiling marked “a pinnacle moment” in which La Casa and La Causa (the Latinx cultural, political, and service organization on campus)  were “finally recognized by campus.”

Joseph Mendoza ’25, who is on the e-board of La Causa, expressed that since Covid, it has been difficult to re-engage and build the Latinx community. Following the unveiling of the mural, Mendoza noted that he can proudly say that the Latinx community is back. “We’re back, this is who we are, this is our presence, we have a spot on campus too.”

The attendance of President Michael Elliott and Provost Catherine Epstein was significant to Campos and Mendoza. For Mendoza, their presence signified that the mural and the Latinx community are important to the administration. “This is not just a project that the school commissioned for that performative aspect, but it was true. It was heartwarming, it was great, it was so inspiring,” he said.

Conversely, although the administration paid for the mural, and moved forward with the broader Newport renovation after student complaints about living conditions, Amelie Justo-Sainz ’25, Secretary of La Casa, is unsure about the administration’s future support. “I feel like only time will tell if we actually have true support,” she said.

Campos stressed that the mural is only the beginning of efforts to re-engage the community. La Casa and La Causa aim to have more events, an example of which is a dinner for those who were just accepted to live in Newport “to bring that sense of community back to what it used to be in the past.”

In the past few years, Campos said, it has been difficult to get people to live in Newport. Before the renovations, “Newport was heavily ignored,” he said, but thanks to the commitment from Campos and García in advertising and community building, Newport’s rooms are full for the coming academic year.