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LAS CRUCES - A mural painted to raise awareness about the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women was defaced sometime Monday or Tuesday. 

Located on the western wall of the Cruces Creatives building at 205 E. Lohman Ave., the mural was created as part of the eighth annual Illegal Art Show hosted each year by local artist Saba. Sebastian "Vela" Velazques was the mural's artist. 

The mural, and more importantly its message, became national news earlier this summer, and since then, Saba said people have come from across the nation to see it. 

"I don't know who would want to vandalize a mural that got so much recognition and touched so many lives and is an important issue to not be disrespected or covered up in any way," he said. 

This act of vandalism is difficult to analyze, because there are so many different ways of interpreting it, Saba said. 

"But the blatant disrespect for what the mural represents is evidence that the hate still exists in the community and some of these issues do touch people deeply but yeah we continue to paint more of these issues," he said. 

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It won't dim our light 

In a phone interview with the Sun-News, Velazques said he knows who vandalized his artwork because they've done it before, and they were talking about doing it again before this latest incident happened, but he's still pretty shocked about it.  

"I do feel that it's a directed hate crime unfortunately at one point they were community people and regardless of whatever issue they have towards me it's still unnecessary," he said. 

Velazques said he creates his art to shine a light and unite not divide communities. Youth help him create his murals and communities work hard to fund them, including in Santa Fe, where he said another one of his murals was defaced.

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"Any adult who will try to deface community and youth artwork is beyond my mind because it's really degrading to themselves. Who would be proud of themselves for doing that, what would people have to gain," he said.  

Velazques said he depicts men, women and spiritual beings in his art. He noted the vandalism is usually directed toward the depiction of women. 

"It seems like they attack the female images more so and I don't know, that's one thing I've noticed. They throw white paint right on the face they're really trying to get a negative reaction from me and they're not getting it," he said. 

Velazques said he won't let the vandals dim his light and he won't stop creating art.

"It's not going to slow me down We're going to keep shining our positive light that's our calling in life," VELA said. 

Velazques said he is seeking guidance about what to do through prayer. He's considering legal action.

Missing women, missing voices

Saba said he believes the mural will come back bigger than before, though it's a shame that a painting with such an important message was defaced in the first place. 

"It is a clear translation. I think our society as a whole, our neighbors we don't know who are neighbors are, or that they're thinking this way towards this issue. I think they would much rather have the silence than looking at it," he said. 

The National Indigenous Women's Resource Center reports that Native women suffer from violence at a rate two and half times greater than that of any other population in the United States. 

New Mexico has the highest number of cases involving missing and murdered indigenous women, Rep. Andrea Romero, the bill's sponsor, told the Farmington Daily Times.

Bethany Freudenthal can be reached at bfreudenthal@lcsun-news.com, 575-541-5449 or @bethanyfreuden1 on Twitter. 

More: Mural raises awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women

More: Build it and they will come: Maker's space to celebrate a year of creating

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