Guadalupe’s Murals Better Future
As always, every new mayor has his or her pet projects and for our’s he put forth initiatives to help folks fix up or add on to their homes. A boon for those in the countryside but city folks have benefited also. For example, in Colonia Guadalupe several homes on Calazada de La Luz have been added on to. In exchange, owners’ have a set payment schedule to repay the city. Basically a win-win-win for the government (increased tax value), home owner (low cost home improvements) and the tourism based economy (folks come to town to view the pretty facades).
But, incidentally, there is a potential loser in the equation that has brought a long lingering problem simmering in colonia Guadalupe to full boil.
What happens when a mural gets covered up by the improvements? Does the city have any responsibility to a mural on private property? Speaking of murals, many that were painted five, or so, years ago, are in need of repair. Can the homeowner simply plaster or paint over them in an effort to reinforce their wall?
Then there is aesthetic disdain for the murals by Mexicans in the neighborhood.
Step into most any Mexican household and notice the paintings. They tend to be like my own, representational, featuring images of flowers, birds, fountains, arches, saints and Virgins. Notice how many of the murals in Guadalupe are far more, well, trippy.
For example, though I personally like the colors in the bath scene between the harlequin toddler and a skeleton you’ve got to admit it is weird. Is Death about to drown the toddler? Why is the toddler in full clown make-up? Where is Pennywise?
As one resident explained to me “Most of Guadalupe’s murals are what foreigners think Mexico is, rather than what Mexicans know Mexico is.”
The murals are certainly different in Guadalupe than in other areas of town. Being the longest running mural tour guide and author of several best-selling books on San Miguel with chapters on murals, I know our public art. In most areas of town murals have been around forever with the most prominent topics being nature, faith and history, the triple play of culture.
As residents pester the administration to remove the more offensive murals there are some that are universally liked. For example, by Gil’s supermarket is a mural of the little lad that sang his heart out on a TV talent show. I can’t imagine a single soul doesn’t find him cute as button!
First off, on a macro level, murals are designed to ethereal. Like flowers or perfume, it is a large component in their beauty. They aren’t meant to last forever.
Secondly, towns that have successful public art projects, like Philadelphia, PA, know a big component in the success of public art is being non-offensive. Hence, most public art features over-sized chess pieces, sculptures with their hats blowing away or words like “Love”.
Third, and perhaps most important, murals in Guadalupe are not why tourists come to town. Sure, they enjoy public art and I can easily incorporate any of the other murals around town to explain a historical and cultural point. But tours that focus just on murals, much less only ones in one particular neighborhood, are not what tourists come to San Miguel for. In my experience, the murals’ existence, or absence, in Guadalupe has no revenue impact on the city.
That being said, I do like them and truly hope at least some get to stay or are replaced with history, faith or nature paintings like in other areas around town rather than more creepy clown, baby bath scenes.
To end on brightest possible note I learned of home owners working together in an admirable display of communications, so fingers crossed, the mural problem will be solved shortly to everyone’s (home owners, artists, government and tourism based economy’s) advantage.