March 18, 2019 By Meghan Sackman
A faded mural on 48th Avenue that pays tribute to a Sunnyside resident who was murdered in 1988 will be freshened up next month.
The mural, painted on the side of Guanches Deli Grocery at 46-01 48th Avenue, honors Jose Miguel “Cilo” Perez, a Sunnyside resident who was shot and killed while riding his bicycle on a Bronx street when he was 18 years old.
Perez, who worked at a store located on 46th Street at the time, was an adored member of the community and a mentor to neighborhood kids, according to John “Johnny Lest” Rios, who worked with the original artist 31 years ago and maintains the mural.
The mural is located on the corner of 46th Street and 48th Avenue, a place where Perez, Rios and other local teens would hang out. Rios said that a big group of kids, “like the little rascals,” would gather there.
Rios said that Perez was a popular Sunnyside teen who was liked by everyone in the community.
“There was something special about him,” Rios said of Perez who lived in the same Cosmopolitan Houses Apartment Complex on 49th Street with him. “He was always willing to help. He was everyone’s big brother in the neighborhood.”
The mural was painted the day of Perez’s funeral by longtime resident “Frank from 64th Street,” and Rios has been taking care of it since.
The teens were able to get the permission of the landlord at the time to paint the mural.
But the mural was defaced about five years ago when the wall was tagged.
Rios, who now lives in Jackson Heights, noticed the vandalism while visiting his father in Sunnyside. He believes that the graffiti was the work of a few MS-13 gang members who were looking to mark their territory.
Rios, who painted over the graffiti as a quick fix, recently saw that his temporary change was fading. He is now planning to brighten and upgrade the mural with the help of a friend, an artist who goes by the street name “AB,” which means “always blessed.”
The pair plan to start work in a few weeks, weather permitting, and they have the permission of the landlord. They are using their own funds to buy paint and other items needed.
The revamp will not only help preserve the memory of Perez, Rios said, but will also preserve the often forgotten “street history” of Sunnyside.
“A lot of people don’t know the street history of Sunnyside,” Rios said. “This mural is a big representation of Sunnyside, its history of the streets, and most importantly, Jose Miguel.”