Once, an extranjero said to me, “Honestly, some of the graffiti in Xela is really quite special. In my country, most works of graffiti are only associated with simple disobedience or with gangs of young delinquents. But not here. Here they are much more a form of artistic and social expression. ”
The truth is that the graffiti in Xela has evolved in recent years. It is very common to see quetzals painted on the walls around Xela, and even XelaWho once used a photo of one of these quetzals as the front cover for one of its editions. What sets the type of painting you see on the walls here with graffiti in many other countries is the message that is implicit within the paintings. There are paintings of flowers and animals, as well as of political, artistic and social characters or historical figures.
One piece that particularly caught my attention was a huge work of graffiti on the walls of what used to be the old Western military zone near the Montblanc Paiz Mall. There is the face of what appears to be an ancient Mayan man, and in each of the ornaments worn on his head there is a message written. Previously, I have also seen in a couple of places paintings of mushrooms growing in psychedelic looking gardens and, even though these works have now been painted over, they left me with a clear message: that graffiti in Xela is not only a manifestation of rebellion but also of creativity and social protest.
I have also seen special works of graffiti created with templates in order to perfectly paint silhouettes of humans, faces, or very well drawn lettering. Such works always make me wonder… at what time of the day do they paint this art on the walls? What ages are the artists: are they kids, adolescents or perhaps adults? Are the police aware of all of these paintings? The only reason they could have to disapprove should be if the works have been painted by breaking onto private property, because the truth is that some of these works of graffiti have been so well made and are so full of interesting content that they can only be considered as works of art and therefore as part of Xela’s cultural patrimony.
Something positive is demonstrated by all this manifestation of discontent, of breaking the established rules, and that is that the people of this country aren’t prepared to stay still and simply wait for us to miss the opportunity to see their creativity in a country where art is still a barely explored, and little supported, field. Although, of course, more than walls are needed to give a platform of expression to all the artistic and imaginative minds of Guatemala.
But in the meantime, we can continue to enjoy the existing graffiti that expresses really quite well the feeling of a generation that cries for spaces that can give free rein to their imagination, their ingenuity and their disapproval of the current system.