Orlando Letelier was the Chilean Ambassador to the United States under Salvador Allende's presidency in the early 1970s.  After Pinochet's violent coup in 1973 Letelier was detained for many months until he was exiled from Chile.  On September 21, 1976 he was assassinated by a car bomb that killed him and his assistant, Ronni Moffitt, while in Washington D.C. campaigning against the human rights violations in Chile.  A group of artist, including Orlando's sons, decided to come together a year later to paint a mural in remembrance of the murders, and the mural brigade was formed.  In 1989 the brigade made its way to Canton, New York as a part of the Steinman Arts Festival.  The group painted not one, but two murals that are still hanging proudly in the Owen D. Young Library 30 years later.  We were fortunate enough to interview two members of the brigade, Orlando's son Francisco Letelier, and one of his partners Jos Sances.  More information about the murals and the Steinman Arts Festival can be found here, and more information about the assassinations of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt can be found here.

Francisco Letelier was born in Chile but spent much of his life living in the United States, primarily in Washington D.C. and California.  He studied art at three prestigious California universities, California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, UC Berkeley, and UCLA; the latter from which he obtained a Masters of Fine Arts.  He has completed a number of murals besides the two here at St. Lawrence University, which reside in places like Washington D.C., Oregon, Los Angeles, and Nicaragua.  Letelier’s passion for human rights and political activism is apparent in his artwork.  The assassination of his father, Orlando Letelier, former Chilean Ambassador to the United States in 1976, and his life as a Chilean exile in America are prominent themes in his artwork.  Letelier is also involved in many different social and political movements, like protecting human rights and the environment, all of which appear in his work.  

Francisco Letelier
Letelier, Francisco. Francisco Letelier. September 10, 2011. FaceBook.

We interviewed Francisco Letelier in order to gain first hand information about his life, his beliefs, and his artwork both here at St. Lawrence and elsewhere.  We have edited our full interview into a few soundbites bellow, but the full interview and a transcription can be found here.

How did you become involved in art in general and mural painting more specifically?  How did your mural brigade come to be named after your father?

How did you and the Orlando Letelier Mural Brigade become involved with the 1989 Steinman Festival held at St. Lawrence?  

What would you say is the main motivation or driving force behind your artwork?  Is it fair to say it is political?

Jos Sances holding one of his pieces of artwork titled "Drinking Water for Palestinian Children."
Storey, John. Drinking Water for Palestinian Children, Jos Sances. Berkley.

Jos Sances has been an artist based of of the Bay area for more than 40 years. He wholeheartedly admits that his work is based upon his political concerns.  Jos's work tells a story: it is intended to deliver its audience a message or convey an idea.  His artwork is on display in several galleries and museums including the Mission Culture Center for Latino Art, Museum of Modern Art, NYC, and other venues around the globe, including right here at St. Lawrence University.  Below are five soundbites that we believe highlight some of the most important or most interesting topics of the interview.  In addition to these soundbites, an audio file and transcript of the entire interview is available at here.        

How did you and the rest of the Orlando Letelier Mural Painting Brigade become involved in the 1989 Steinman Festival?  

Can you elaborate a little more for us about the conquistador and Native American man in the right half of the last supper mural?

What would you say the main themes of the mural are?

What would you say is the main motivation or driving force behind your artwork?  Is it fair to say it is political?

Any final thoughts on the last supper mural?


"Artist: Francisco Letelier." LA Metro Home. Accessed December 03, 2018. https://www.metro.net/about/art/artists/Letelier/.

Designostrom, Ivan. "The Art of Jos Sances." The Art of Jos Sances. 2016. Accessed November 2018. http://www.josart.net/.