Painting the Town: El Federico Is One of Austin’s Best Muralists

Steven Visneau /
Steven Visneau / | © Culture Trip
Jessica Devenyns

Austin is a city that wears its art on its sleeve. The city has plenty of galleries and museums, but some of the best – and certainly most recognizable – art is found on the sides of buildings and in city parks.

If you’ve ever spent a sunny Austin afternoon biking or hiking around town you’ve probably seen some of Federico Archuleta’s work. Known as El Federico, this self-taught graffiti artist is among Austin’s most prolific and beloved makers of imagery.

Born and raised in El Paso, El Federico has a style that is emblematic of the cross-cultural exchange that happens in this culturally flavorful corner of Texas. Although separated by the US-Mexico border, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez are sister cities that are “joined by bridges that hustle humanity, commerce and contraband to and fro between the north and south,” according to Federico. The muralist knew he wanted to be an artist since he was “thigh-high,” so it’s only natural that the cross-pollination of Mexican culture – like lucha libre and mid-century movie posters – with American Pop art of the 1960s made its way under his skin and resulted in a distinct style that incorporates both.

However, he told Culture Trip that he tries to stretch those ties to educate those who see his art about different facets of Mexican culture and not just reinforce familiar imagery. He pointed to his rendition of Sara García, the Mexican actress who is immortalized as the chocolate abuelita.

“I took that one and I put a joint in her hand and she’s got these red shades on, and that piece became very popular,” says Federico. “That’s one I really like because people always crack up when they see it and there will be people who know exactly who it is … and then there are the people who call it the pot-smoking grandma.”

Federico explains that depicting the quintessential Mexican grandma in this fashion not only makes it instantly accessible to everyone but also raises the curiosity of those who are not as familiar with Mexican pop culture. “I like to do stuff that a guy growing up Chicano will say ‘I get that’ but then … I like to make the white people curious.”

Among his most recognizable murals are a stencil piece called La Virgen, another called ’Til Death Do Us Part and of course Let’s Band Together – an homage to the Live Music Capital of the World, AKA Austin.

A striking favorite, ’Til Death Do Us Part, is a skull-and-crossbones motif that evokes images of El Día de los Muertos, as two skulls (one with lipstick) kiss inside a geometrically designed heart and surrounded by roses. La Virgen is a stenciled version of the classic Mexican motif, but El Federico reimagined the figure with his signature colors and roses in a way that makes it commercially reproducible to echo the familiarity that Austin residents have with the image. Let’s Band Together, a mural appropriately situated on the wall of favorite East Side hang Whisler’s, is an anatomical heart composed of musical instruments to display how deeply the city as a whole loves music.

Steven Visneau /

His style is instantly recognizable. Part street art and part folk art, it’s all kinds of Tex-Mex spray-can sexy. Colorful and geometric, Federico’s melding of Mexican art with European-derived traditions is underscored by his use of modern media to paint. Perhaps because most of his iconic work is spray-painted onto the walls of Austin but based on pre-cut stencils, there is a feeling that it is art that belongs to the people both because of its proliferation through town and its fusion of the city’s two coexisting cultures. “It’s a two-way street,” he says. “I don’t like to be exclusive and be like this is only for the gringos or this is only for the Mexicans. Everybody get on board and enjoy it all.”

Steven Visneau /

At the same time that El Federico contributes his paintings to the outdoor museum that is downtown Austin, he is also completing commissioned pieces for companies like Jarritos, a Mexican soft-drink company, and Indio Beer. At the same time, he regularly participates in art festivals like the East Austin Studio Tour and the Cherrywood Art Fair where Austinites and visitors can take home a miniaturized version of his work for themselves.

Steven Visneau /

However, because his story began on the streets, it is the streets where El Federico still illustrates his heart and soul. He says he’s always on the lookout for the next great piece of blank real estate to paint on, but that the game is not like it used to be when he started. “Now there’s a lot of people doing great work so there’s a lot of competition out there and I’ve got to get my game up,” he says. It will be interesting to see what he dreams up next.

If you’re an art lover, be sure to check out our guide to Austin’s best art galleries.

Steven Visneau /
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.