Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spontaneous Civic Activism for Art

In this city in which extraordinary pollution can go uncommented and people get robbed in broad daylight while bystanders just turn away so as not to get involved, I was a bit heartened by the spontaneous activism I saw last night.

I was cycling along Seventh Ave., just south of 19th St., where someone had just painted a creative and irreverent mural declaring 'We the ugly are much more beautiful' on a wall bordering an empty lot.

As I passed by, a woman with a bucket and brush stopped and began gluing posters for a heavy metal concert over the mural. People on both sides of the street started yelling at her not to cover up the mural - they liked it. It was art. It brightened up the street. In a few minutes, a small crowd gathered around and the woman, intimidated, stopped gluing up posters.

The woman looked angry. This was, after all, her job, and surely she didn't earn much. And she probably felt an almost proprietary right about using the wall space, as a privilege of her profession. Probably, what she's doing is illegal. But behind this wall is an empty lot, and the street art, while attractive, is also illegal.

The poster woman appeared uncertain over whether to move on or continue sticking up posters.

A man, apparently a foreigner, walked up and started pulling the posters off of the wall. The glue hadn't dried yet. The woman made a half-hearted attempt to stop him. Maybe she gets paid per poster that she puts up.

I felt sorry for the woman, who undoubtedly earns a pittance and has at least three children and an infant to support. Most likely, she's a single mother, which is why she had her kids with her while working late into the night.

I offered her a few thousand pesos, but she refused them. She had pride, and her right to stick up posters was an issue of principle for her.

Finally, she walked away.

Crumpled posters lie on the sidewalk.

She, or someone else, did the job on this vacant building.

The 'We the ugly...' mural remains untouched.

It's positive to see people, whether natives or foreigners, defend 'their' city. But unfortunately it came at the expense of a very humble, hard-working woman, who's just trying to survive.

I wish people were as willing to confront real powers, such as industries, which cause much more harmful kinds of pollution.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


mauricio forero l said...

Dear Mike...This is awesome.
One of your best. It really moved me!!

Mauricio Forero.

Miguel said...

Thanks Mauricio. The incident moved me, too.



amanda said...
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