A collaboration between Zacatecas residents and visual artists has brought color and hope to the streets of three violent and marginalized neighborhoods in the northern state.
Residents of Gavilanes, a neighborhood in the municipality of Guadalupe; Popular CTM in Zacatecas city; and Abel Dávila in Fresnillo worked with street artists to dream up and paint 43 murals on the exterior walls of houses and apartment buildings.
The murals express the residents’ feelings, wishes and desires and feature their pets and family members, the newspaper El Universal reported,
The overriding theme, El Universal said, is that the future can be better – the future can be what the residents painted.
Called Comunidad en Paz (Community at Peace), the mural project was supported by the Zacatecas government, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Tomate artists’ collective and the paint company Comex.
In addition to representing hope for a better future, the murals also draw attention to problems that the neighborhoods suffer, such as drug consumption, violence, low levels of school attendance and teenage pregnancies, said Zacatecas Crime Prevention Undersecretary Armando García Neri.
One of the participants in the project was 59-year-old housewife Cipriana González. She collaborated with the artists David Hernández – or Dagos as he is known in the street art world – and Tomás Major to develop an idea for a mural that now adorns her home in Gavilanes.
The mural features González and her half-sister Cristina as young women as well as the former’s mother holding her favorite flower, an alcatraz, 0r calla lily. The painting of González’s mother was based on the only photo that González has of her.
Above the three women are two young boys, who were added on the suggestion of a neighbor who yearns for the days of her childhood. González has her hand on her heart in the mural, a reference to the two heart attacks she has suffered, and survived.
Females are the stronger sex but lack respect and opportunities, she told El Universal. Featuring women as protagonists in the new murals help to generate greater respect for them, González said.
She said that the mural project and the art it produced have helped to bring the local community closer together.
Since the mural was painted, people who she didn’t previously know have stopped her in the street to say hello, González said, adding: “It’s nice to see people are interested … I like making friends from this.”
Just a few kilometers from Gavilanes is Popular CTM, a Zacatecas city neighborhood where 26 murals were painted as part of the Comunidad en Paz project. One of the most eye-catching is a 15 by 12-meter mural featuring a young boy wearing a bonnet with elephant ears.
Also painted by Dagos, the mural is of the oldest son – now a grown man – of Lourdes Mendoza Pizarro, or Doña Lulú as she is known in the neighborhood. She told El Universal that she has seen people stopping in their cars to take photos of the mural since it was painted on her home late last year.
Local children, including Doña Lulú’s granddaughter, helped Hernández complete the work. Mendoza said that she hasn’t noticed a reduction in crime in Popular CTM but added that young people are not scrawling graffiti on the murals as they do on unadorned walls.
Violeta Zarco, a project coordinator at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said that it is too soon to say whether crime has dropped in the neighborhoods where the murals were painted. However, a change can already be seen in the people who live in them, she said, explaining that their confidence has grown.
Zacatecas Governor Alejandro Tello said that more work needs to be done to reduce crime but acknowledged the efforts of the people involved in the mural project. He said that his administration has invested 700 million pesos (US $37.8 million) in crime prevention strategies implemented by 22 different government agencies.
Dagos, the artist, conceded that murals can’t solve problems such as drug use and trash in the streets but said that the “visual gifs” could “empower” children and help steer them down a positive path in life.
The murals help them to know that they matter and feel that they are important to the barrio, or neighborhood, in which they live, he said.
Source: El Universal (sp)