Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Now this is art

When traveling in Latin America, I have always been impressed by the quantity and often quality of graffiti covering walls all over the continent. Not only is there so much more than in the States, but the pieces are often stunning works of art or political statements unlike what I have seen at home.

As far as I can tell, one of the places with the highest concentrations of graffiti - particularly political graffiti - is the National University, located across the street from my apartment. Often referred to as la Nacho,
it is the principal public university in the country, and arguably the best institution of higher education in the country. Several friends have commented to me that whereas the Nacho requires excellent results on an exacting admissions exam, enough cash is the main thing you need to get into most of the private universities. 

Tuition at the Nacho, however, is determined by a sliding scale based on income, and as a result is a diverse, dynamic place. The Nacho has also long been the site of strong student activism in Colombia. This is student activism in the style of the University of California protests late last year, not a quiet protest with a few unhappy students. Fee hikes have also been the cause of protests her, resulting in several pelas (confrontations) with police.

A principal topic of graffiti is also imperialism. Don't see much of that kind of critical graffiti in the States, do you? But here, of course, is where the effects of imperialism are felt. I have to admit that I sometimes feel a bit self-conscious when I see "fuera yanquis!" (yankee go home) all over walls in my neighborhood and other parts of Bogota. Since the military bases deal was announced, I have also see many more references to U.S. military aggression. I particularly like this one at the right, which plays on the U.S. and Colombian governments’ reference to the agreement as mere “international cooperation.”

And some images are beautifully inspiring. The text above reads: "The can cut all the flowers, but they can't stop the Spring. - Pablo Neruda”


Dave S. said...

Wow! I absolutely love this sort of street art and graffiti. And the messages can be so powerful. Looks like you've found a lot of beautiful art!

Karin said...

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