So that Our Crossing May Never be Obstructed & Ceramic Tiles
Artist: Octavio Quintanilla
Date created: 2022
Located in the River Walk Public Art Garden, Labor Plaza is a space is a tribute to San Antonio’s labor movement as it was originally home to a sculpture of labor leader Samuel Gompers created in 1982 by Betty Jean Alden. Labor Plaza honors the history and legacy of labor in San Antonio, along with labor’s ties to social justice and civil rights causes.
The plaza is designed for viewers to walk through a spiral walkway. The spiral, a form commonly found in nature, allows people to take a journey throughout the space discovering different elements related to the local history of labor. Within the spiral walkway and gathering area, is a poem titled "So that Our Crossing May Never be Obstructed" by Octavio Quintanilla (San Antonio Poet Laureate 2018-2020). At the beginning of the poem Quintanilla addresses the reader directly with the use of the word “you,” as the poem ends the focus shifts to “we” to create an intertwining and universal experience.
In addition to the poem, Quintanilla created five artworks that were printed in ceramic tiles. These artworks include figurative and abstractions referencing elements found in the Plaza. The pieces are inspired by the Labor Movement, unions and the Mexican Muralist art movement. They are intended to capture moments of history and point to the future. Quintanilla drew inspiration from various phrases found in "Solidarity Forever" for the images "A New World, Con el corazón en alto and Organized."
Unión is the only image not placed in the ground. The image acts an entry point greeting visitors to enter the space. The image features the word union—something recognizable to both Spanish and English speaker. The image and tile allude to the diverse laborers who commonly worked in railroad jobs.
A New World features various aspect of tool imagery, significant to different unions. The hammer signifies the tool to feed our families, as the means to make a new world. The dove symbolizes a world of peace and solidarity. The figures stand together as the smoke of the chimney rises above them. Additionally, the chimney is a nod to a nearby sculpture of the same shape.
Union symbolizes the unity of bodies, minds, spirit, and common struggle. The flying figure holds a hammer, which, echoes the motifs and imagery of labor seen throughout the series including a saw blade, gear, and hammer.
Organized illustrates figures raising their arms in protest, the central figure outstretching her arms to protect the rest. Behind her, the other figures stand in solidarity.
Con el corazón en alto is inspired by the farm worker’s struggle. This piece utilizes abstraction to suggest farm workers working in a field. While their bodies run counter the rows, their elongated form suggest that they are intrinsically part of the fields. Highlighting how essential labor is to all that is earth and dignity in work.
So That Our Crossing May Never Be Obstructed
You stand now in a city of sunlight, city named
after the kindest of saints, where those
who came before you unspool
themselves to meet you, at this
exact point in history
to remind you like a healed bone
long after a fracture might remind you
that whatever has been done
was not in vain, was not a trifle,
that whatever has transpired
has also been a part of what has made you,
just like your mother’s hands have sewed
your name with love on your father’s hands
and he in turn has left a sky for you to flag
around your life, and as such, this weaving is
nothing more than love in labor to procure
a decent wage for we who must live on,
for we who must persist to grind down fences
and hammer bridges up.