This striking orange, red, green and blue masked face gazing over 1st Avenue North is by Daniel Barojas. It’s an offering, or ofrenda, to protect St. Petersburg from drought and storms.
On the north half of a two-story commercial building at 1211 1st Avenue North, is the bold face of Tlaloc, the Aztec god of water and rain, 15 feet high, and 39 feet wide.
The upper right corner of the building is covered with rich greens and blues, the red and orange face of Tlaloc in the center. He faces East, toward the sunrise, framed by turbulent abstract waves.
His face takes up the center of the mural, the wide blue wings of his headdress, tipped with orange, stretching left and right. His face is as high as the wall – with light blue skin and dark blue lips, and long, pointed fangs marked with grey geometric patterns. His rich red tongue is split, curving across his neck on either side.
His eyes are narrowed, a powerful gaze over this busy street. His eyes are deep, with teal blue eyelids marked by dark blue angled bands. They’re ringed in red, with two bright green snakes curving around his eyes, like goggles.
The rain god is often associated with serpents – and always depicted in goggles. These green serpents curve around Tlaloc’s eyes, teeth bared. Their tails are wound together, covering his nose.
The serpents have long snouts like tiny crocodiles. They curl upside-down, heads resting against Tlaloc’s blue lips.
His head is adorned in the traditional headdress seen in images of the rain god for thousands of years, a dark red, squared-off helmet with a thick gold braid above his forehead, long side-pieces framing his face, and wide blue feathers with orange tips, spreading out on either side.
His neck is framed by an arcing orange band, with a wide blue wing on either side, and another orange band above his shoulders. On each wing is a green ring, set against the blue, a stream of light blue water pouring through it.
Except for the white-capped waves that frame Tlaloc’s face, the entire surface of the mural is textured in geometric shapes – a six-sided pattern that’s half-dark colors, half-light.
Inside the angled dark half, it’s a lighter color. Inside the angled light half, is a darker shade. Every color of the mural, blue, green, red, gold and white, is embedded with this pattern. The effect is like geometric cobblestones, adding shadowed textures to every color on the mural.
As the rain god, Tlaloc was one of the most important Aztec deities, governing water, fertility and agriculture. And thankfully looking out for St Pete, amid drought and storms.
Daniel Barojas, also known as R5 or Rope5, is a Mexican-born artist who lives and works in St. Petersburg. He works in many mediums including watercolor, mixed media, photography, graphic design, jewelry, toys and graffiti. He spreads positive messages with his art, using his cultural influences as inspiration.
In 2018, Daniel Barojas was granted an Individual Artist Award from the St Pete Arts Alliance, and an Emerging Artist Award from Creative Pinellas. His abstract R-5 signature stands out in orange, on the right, above a wave and a square, smoked-glass window.
You can find another mural by Daniel Barojas on the back of the building at 2914 1st Avenue North, beside murals by ZuluPainter and Ali Vasquez. It’s a lovely abstract work inspired by Florida’s native Tocobaga tribe, the original settlers of Pinellas and Hillsborough county.
This mural faces a colorful mural by Mikael B directly behind you, across the parking lot.