Residents who were fed up with gangs and graffiti in San Pablo del Monte, Tlaxcala, erected signs last month warning they would be lynched if caught.
But youths in the town, equally tired of crime and graffiti tagging, came up with another idea: murals. Eighteen now adorn a road that leads to La Malinche National Park.
Located on the border with the state of Puebla and in the foothills of the inactive volcano La Malinche, the municipality of San Pablo has had a serious graffiti problem: houses, official buildings, vacant lots and recreation areas have all been tagged with spray paint, allegedly by gangs.
Neighbors, tired of the constant tagging, put up signs that warned both thieves and taggers that they would not be turned in to the authorities, but lynched instead.
The initiative of transforming the urban landscape began with the town’s youths, many of whom were graffiti artists themselves. With support from the Tlaxcala Institute for Youth (ITJ) and the municipality, along with an investment of 40,000 pesos (about US $2,000), the project became a reality.
The road that leads to the national park was chosen as the canvas for the social project. Denominated by the youths as the Matlalcuéyetl Route, 18 different collectives of urban artists painted the same number of murals.
Matlalcuéyetl is another name for the inactive volcano, itself named after the controversial and mythical figure of Malintzin, the native woman who served as an interpreter for and companion to Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés.
Each of the artistic creations has its own meaning, explained the project leader, Frank Salvador. “One has a tractor, alluding to the environmental issues suffered in the Tlaxcala mountains, caused by logging and farming.”
“Another mural has a young indigenous girl playing a flute. The scene also has a rooster and several snails. The girl is smiling and has the indigenous characteristics of the people of San Isidro Buensuceso [a town within the San Pedro municipality].”
The project was created for the people of San Pablo to enjoy, but with exposure on the Matlalcuéyetl Route the urban artists also hope to promote the arts and raise awareness about local environmental and social issues.
The director of ITJ hopes that all the citizens of San Pablo del Monte will learn to “respect a nice street, a [house’s] pretty facade, because all that encourages tourism to come to the state, particularly to a town like ours,” said Néstor Flores.