San Antonio Honors Indigenous Heritage with New Public Art
Comanche Lookout Park installation represents long-standing traditions and ceremonies with artwork by San Antonio based artists
SAN ANTONIO (January 13, 2021) – The City of San Antonio’s Department of Arts & Culture and its Public Art Division today unveiled “Najo Jām”, a new public art installation at Comanche Lookout Park. Meaning “Our Home” in the Coahuiltecan language Pajalate, the artwork pays tribute to indigenous ancestors of South Texas as well as future generations.
Sitting at the peak of Comanche Lookout Park, “Najo Jām” is considered pan-Indian, relating to the multiple indigenous tribes including those that call San Antonio home. Designed by collaborating San Antonio artists Carlos Cortés and Doroteo Garza, the installation features stylized benches, a planter, and a monument that symbolize peyotism used as part of indigenous religious ceremonies. These pieces are created with a signature style passed down from generations called trabajo rustico, which uses reinforced concrete to artistically imitate wood and stone.
“The use of trabajo rustico for this project is meaningful and intentional, as both the technique and symbols of indigenous culture represent deep and rich traditions,” said Cortés, a third generation trabajo rustico concrete artisan. “It is inspiring to use the skills passed down to me from my father, who learned from my great uncle, to honor and reflect on the ancestors and heritage of this land.”
A central piece of the “Najo Jām” installation is the monument, which features half-moon and deer imagery carved in the faux stone. An important food source for indigenous cultures, deer were also revered in spiritual traditions. According to legend, where the deer steps peyote cacti grow. The monument also includes a peyote stich pattern made of tile reminiscent of beadwork from various tribes including South West and Plains tribes. The pattern is often found on ceremonial rattles used in sacrament.
“It is my hope that when park visitors see the installation, they gain an understanding that indigenous stories and memories existed here long before their hike,” said Garza, a multimedia artist with nearly 20 years of experience. “Nature is so integral to the indigenous way of life and I am excited for people to connect with the land by viewing and interacting with the artwork while standing in the center of an area so important to indigenous culture and heritage.”
Comanche Lookout Park is a 96-acre public park located in San Antonio City Council District 10. The park is home to Comanche Hill, the fourth-highest point in Bexar County with an elevation of 1,340 feet. With multiple trails that provide stunning views of San Antonio, the park is a frequent destination for walkers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. “Najo Jām” is representative of a welcoming space, inviting interaction and respite after a long hike throughout the park.
“San Antonio recently celebrated its Tricentennial, but there is more than 10,000 years of indigenous history and culture in this area, especially at Comanche Lookout Park,” said San Antonio District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry. “Not only does this artwork serve a functional purpose as a peaceful place to rest after climbing the trails, but it also provides a unique perspective on the people who thrived on and honored this land for many years.”
The artist team of Cortés and Garza also collaborated on a “Najo Jām” oversized planter in the shape of a peyote bud at the River Walk Public Art Garden near the corner of Market and Alamo Streets. The planter is currently on display at the River Walk Public Art Garden before permanently moving to the Comanche Lookout Park installation. The River Walk Public Art Garden serves to display artwork that connects to Public Art in other areas of the city to showcase the depth of San Antonio’s Public Art Collection to residents and visitors alike. “Najo Jām” marks the first temporary districtwide connectivity piece to debut at the garden.
For more information about “Najo Jām” and the Department of Arts & Culture’s Public Art Program, please visit SanAntonio.gov/Arts.
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