Only have a minute? Listen instead
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

HARLINGEN — Keyboards move in a solid arch beneath Elvis’s bold face leaning into a microphone as Chuck Berry rises high and proud with his guitar.

The keyboards seem to provide a strong foundation beneath this first panel by Mario Godinez, conveying the message that these two individuals lay the foundation of rock and roll.

“They were the pioneers of rock and roll music,” said Godinez, an art teacher at Harlingen High School South.

“I integrated some of the colors and some of the musical instruments of that time,” he said. “I was trying to capture the essence of that time with the colors and the patterns.”

It’s the first of six panels along a white brick wall on A Street near the intersection of Jackson Street, and Thursday evening city leaders gathered to celebrate the unveiling of the final panel for the project, “History of Rock n Roll.”

There was a countdown to the unveiling and a clapping and cheering as a black cloth fell and revealed that final panel with its beaming eyes above the purple lines of a juke box.

Harlingen Mayor Norma Sepulveda was impressed with all the panels.

“I think they are phenomenal especially knowing that they take us through time,” Sepulveda said. “You can experience decades of music.”

The unveiling Thursday was timed to coincide with Texas Big Art Day which was Thursday, Godinez said.

“Texas Big Art Day, it’s to show the significance of art in education, and also to promote the importance of art in communities,” he said.

The Downtown Harlingen Committee approached Godinez in 2019 to do the murals, and he of course agreed to do the projects for several reasons.

Artist Mario Godinez stands next to his mural, which was unveiled in downtown Harlingen on Thursday, March 7, 2024. (Travis Whitehead | Valley Morning Star)

As a teacher it was a good example to his students that their instructor was also a successful working artist. There was of course the satisfaction of producing such a project for the city, and there was another reason.

“Me being like a rock fan I really love that genre,” he said. “I jumped at the opportunity to do it. ‘Yeah, this is something that interests me.’ So the passion for music, the passion for art, was pretty much the inspiration to come up with an idea.”

His idea morphed into a walk through the years and the trajectories of rock and roll in its many transformations. Once he laid the foundation of the project with Chuck Berry and Elvis, he worked on the second panel about the 1960s and 1970s.

“That mural has to do with all the different events that happened during that time, such as the Vietnam War, the whole hippy movement,” he said. “A lot of that inspired artists to create the music.”

The mural presents the invasion of musicians from Europe. The visages of the four Beatles are revealed in the iconic pop art and surrealism of the 1960s while a white brick walkway snakes its way into a curl to lift American artist Jimi Hendrix into the shimmering night where he can kiss the sky.

The next panel takes viewers on a visual tour of the music of the 1980s and 1990s. The series continues through each decade to the present time. Everyone at the unveiling admired and appreciated the project, a colorful new addition to the downtown mural scene.

Godinez and his murals also inspired his students.

“It shows it’s possible to continue art as a career,” said Haley Vasquez, 17, a senior at South.

“I moved from the Harlingen Cardinals to Harlingen South and he was the one who encouraged me to study art,” Haley said.

She plans to study biology in college and also has a deep interest to learn tattooing as well.