What Role Does Art Play in the Uplifting of a Disadvantaged Community?
Iztapalapa, Mexico City’s most populous neighborhood, has benefited from a new cableway and hundreds of massive paintings, yet poverty and violence against women remain widespread problems.
From atop a cable car, the city looks like a vast expanse of concrete punctured only by skyscrapers and the ruins of long-gone volcanoes. In the borough of Iztapalapa, a maze of narrow streets and lanes, the cinder block dwellings blanket the hillsides in drab gray.
However, a surprising flash of color appeared on a nearby rooftop in the form of a monstrous monarch butterfly resting on a purple blossom. A toucan and a scarlet macaw perch high above the route of Mexico City’s newest cable car. Later, a young girl in a red outfit with closed eyelids is depicted on a canary yellow wall. She appears to be in complete joy.
According to city officials, the 6.5-mile line, which opened in August, is the world’s longest public cableway. The cable car not only cuts commuting times in half for many residents of the city’s most populous district, but it also boasts a unique feature: a wall covered in flamboyant murals created by a slew of local artists, many of which can only be seen from the skyline.
Music teacher César Enrique Sánchez del Valle, who was riding the cable car home one recent Tuesday afternoon, stated, “There are paintings and murals all along the route.” “Something unexpected is great,” she said.
Iztapalapa’s administration has spent the last three years hiring 140 painters to cover the neighborhood in nearly 7,000 pieces of public art, bringing a burst of color to one of Mexico City’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods.
Clara Brugada Molina, the borough’s mayor, stated, “People want to recover their heritage, the history of the area.” This area of Iztapalapa transforms into an enormous art gallery.
Iztapalapa is a sprawling neighborhood on the outskirts of Mexico City with 1.8 million residents, many of whom are among the city’s poorest. Many people work in more affluent areas, which caused long journeys before the cable car came along.
While Iztapalapa, like many other Mexican slums, struggles with a lack of basic utilities like running water, it also suffers from a high level of violence that is frequently tied to organized crime.
The mayor’s art project is part of a larger effort to make Iztapalapa a safer place, including the installation of street lighting that have illuminated previously dark main routes.