Close

Donate today to keep Global Voices strong!

Our global community of volunteers work hard every day to bring you the world's underreported stories -- but we can't do it without your help. Support our editors, technology, and advocacy campaigns with a donation to Global Voices!

Donate now

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Graffiti and Urban Art: Voices from Latin American Streets III

Editor's Note: This is the third and final in a series of posts about graffiti and urban art around Latin America. To visit the other posts in the series, please click here and here.

In public spaces, street art (or urban art) represents the voice of the community, marginal groups, and young people that strive to be heard, often defying the notion of private property. Latin America is not an exception for this. Some of Latin American street art is distinct from what is created by the hip-hop movement, focusing on political messages and stories of struggle that speak directly to the viewer.

Through the lens of bloggers, Flickr users and communities, and contributors on YouTube, we offer you an online tour of the art of the streets that communicate secrets and passions at every turn.

Venezuela

Venezuelan graffiti has extensive documentation on the Internet, and a notable part comes from users that act as collectors for all kinds of purposes. In Crónicas de un Aprendiz de Periodista blogger Jorge González interviewed graffiti writers [es] from several cities about the main characteristics of this type of urban art as an exercise to practice journalism. He presents inside opinions from the artists themselves, like writer MK 21 from Catia:

«mucha gente se encuentra segura y a gusto cuando escribe su nombre. Tenemos la sensación de afianzarnos, de identificarnos con nosotros mismos. Cuanto más escribes tu nombre, más piensas en ti y comprendes cómo eres. En cuanto empiezas a hacerlo te reafirmas como individuo, tienes identidad».

«many people feel comfortable and secure when they write their names. We have feelings of high esteem, and identification with ourselves. When you write your name, the more you think of yourself, and understand how you are. When you start doing [making art] you reaffirm yourself as an individual, you have an identity».

Another collecting approach comes from blogger BlogZup, who gathered some of the best graffiti works in Venezuela [es], creating an avalanche of responses (100 comments). On the other hand, the blog Solo en Venezuela compiled graffiti and written messages with humorous content [es] found on streets around the country.

Photo by blmurch. Used following a Creative Commons license. Taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/blmurch/296870012/

Photo by blmurch. Used following a Creative Commons license. Taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/blmurch/296870012/

Graffiti and street art can also be subjects of academic study, as a part of contemporary art forms. For example, the Network of Scientific Journals of Latin America and the Caribbean, Spain and Portugal (Red de Revistas Científicas de América Latina y el Caribe, España y Portugal) has an interesting collection of articles related to graffiti [es], available to download in PDF format. One of them is the study “El graffiti en la V República Venezolana. Estudio del graffiti sobre asuntos públicos”, which analyzes the political content of 740 explicit graffiti pieces [es/en] on the streets of Caracas as a way to evaluate the public opinion.

More photos can be found on the Flickr group Mural paintings and graffiti in Venezuela, which is joined by more than 100 members.

Mexico

On the ground, sharing the message of the street art might be as important as the work itself. As a user, Mexican artist Mr. Fly has a complete website [es] for his work, and supports his portfolio with videos on YouTube and his work on Flickr and Fotolog. He works with stencils, posters, and stickers to leave traces of his imagination on public spaces throughout the city, flying from one spot to another:

The intro of the video reads the following:

En esta puta ciudad caótica, donde el arte es privilegio, recorrer las calles es una necedad, una necedad necesaria en busca de la libre expresión.

In this f*cking chaotic city, where art is a privilege, walking the streets on a whim, a necessary whim in search of freedom of expression.

Collective Lapiztola, from Oaxaca, mixes stencils and serigraphy to create political images with contrasts of textures. In their blog, they document [es] both their contributions to “formal” events and what they create for the streets.

By Lapiztola. Used with permission. Taken from http://lapiztola.blogspot.com/2008/08/mujeres-de-maz.html

By Lapiztola. Used with permission. Taken from http://lapiztola.blogspot.com/2008/08/mujeres-de-maz.html

The above work is presented in the post “Mujeres de maíz [es]” (“Women of corn“) with the following explanation:

Estencil pintado en la curtiduria con motivo de la presentación de una exposición itinerante formada por artistas mujeres que buscan usar su arte para llamar la atencion sobre el tema del Maíz y que es lo que significa para el futuro de México; el aumento del precio de la tortilla, el desinteres del gobierno por la economia campesina indigena y la identidad cultural.

Stencil painted on tanned hides for a presentation of an itinerant exposition by women artists that use their art to call attention to the subject of corn and what it means to the future of Mexico; the rise in the price of tortillas, and government indifference to indigenous agricultural workers and their cultural identity.

An interesting video interview in Spanish [es] is available in the Mexican blog Andamos armados.

From Monterrey, Los Contratistas is a collective of street artists who present their works on their blog [es], as well as events, photo galleries, and details of their installations using mixed techniques (including objects, disassembled parts, recycled material).

By Screw. Used with permission. Taken from http://loscontratistas.wordpress.com/2008/09/14/mty-saltillo/dscf6241/

By Screw. Used with permission. Taken from http://loscontratistas.wordpress.com/2008/09/14/mty-saltillo/dscf6241/

On their blog, they share a manifesto [es] that explains their name (“contractors”) and their collective philosophy:

Entiendas[e] como contratista cualquier persona que demuestre el oficio, la rudeza y buena vibra para realizar cualquier proyecto de electricidad, arte, plomería, albañilería o expresión personal; ya sea en las alturas o a nivel de “cancha”.

“Contratista” (“contractor”) is understood as any person that shows the workmanship, the strength, and good vibes to create a project of electricity, art, plumbing, brickwork or personal expression; whether is it from the top or at ground level.

Despite its frequent clashes with legality, the graffiti and street art scene in Mexico is strong. A complete documentary of the Mexican street art can be found on YouTube [es], created by Aiwey.tv [es]. More artists and works can also be found in the Flickr groups Street Art Mexico [es], Mexican Bomber [es] and Stencil + Arte Urbano (Mexico) [es], the latter with +500 members.

Afterword

These examples of contemporary expression defy and contrast with the common idea of art, which is usually portrayed as something so valuable that it needs to be protected and kept in a safe place, like high-security musems and elite galleries. With a growing acceptance of community, Latin American graffiti writers and urban artists take the Internet as they take any other public space: with the strength of unique voices that reach out to others by any means possible.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site