Sunday, February 12, 2017

Que Pasa? / What's Up? Protests in the Street

(for best viewing of photos, click to enlarge and begin a slideshow)

I'm in Mexico, so let's talk about NAFTA. Or the wall!

Just kidding ... we're all inundated with politics so think of this as a short break from the horrors of our government's nefarious shenanigans (by looking at another government's shenanigans).

Aside from sun and warm weather, one bright light here is the colorful graffiti on the streets (and many of you know what a fan I am). It's all over the place!

It seems different from graffiti in Egypt (multi-layered, angry, humorous, illegal, ever-changing—see my blog post on graffiti in Cairo), Miami (polished, appropriated by tourists), Brazil (didn't fully explore), New York (the birthplace of graffiti, now currently sponsored by high-end clothing stores). There's both a political and technical sophistication, and a tendency towards cartoons. Graffiti is illegal in Oaxaca as well, sometimes garnering a $40,000 peso fine. 

Artists from every country include symbols and motifs inherent in their culture and history, but there are similarities all over the world. And like any art, there are various motives to create graffiti, along with styles (narrative, abstract, political, allegorical, tagging), methods and techniques (wood cuts, stencils, paint, stickers). 

While public art and work of the storied Mexican muralists have been significant here (and around the world) for decades, 2006 marked a resurgence of art in the streets. In June of that year, a theretofore annual teacher's strike ended violently and spurred masses of people to demand resignation of the Oaxacan state governor (e.g. Cuomo) and to express their strong opposition to the chronic problems of poor education, poverty, indigenous rights, environmental degradation, among others (sound familiar?).

The people came together to form The Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO, from its Spanish name, Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca), including "representatives of Oaxaca's state regions and municipalities, unions, non-governmental organizations, social organizations, cooperatives, and parents." (*)

The protests lasted for months, with encampments (not unlike Occupy Wall Streetalthough this happened a few years earlier) proliferating in the famed Zócalo of downtown Oaxaca. Eventually, the people staged massive takeovers of radio and television stations, a college campus, and other actions. 

Ultimately, in November, the Mexican government violently shut the protests down -- some people were killed with many disappeared. During this historic time in 2006, however, people embraced a resurgence of street art as a means of occupation and communication. Art collectives flourished and many still operate in Oaxaca today.

I hope to write a blog post about the numerous printmaking collectives (silkscreen, intaglio, etching, etc.) around town. Meanwhile, below are some interesting links if you want to follow up. There is history, and lots more pics of graffiti that I have yet to encounter. Please feel free to join this blog and share it.

"Imagine the universe dreaming in space, caressing the infinite, you're balanced on a comet, there's a star next to the moon, giving it precious cosmic love."