Thirteen teenagers and young adults from the metropolitan area of Monterrey, city in the North of México, were sent to prison after a “graffiti attack” on an overpass along one of the busiest avenues in the city. They were part of a group of 300 graffiti “writers” that organized the event through Fotologs (a social network similar to Flickr to upload photos) and websites. During the afternoon of May 17, they covered three lanes on Constitution Avenue with graffiti, with the paintings measuring one kilometer in length on walls on both sides of the lanes, taking on the name “macropinta” [macropainting].
According to Mexican newspaper Milenio [es], of the thirteen young boys arrested, 7 have paid 20,000 pesos [approx. 1,520 USD] individually in bail and fines in order to be released. However, the ones that have not covered the bail are still in prison and, as newspaper El Porvenir [es] warns, they could spend more than 10 years in jail for causing damage on third-party property, with the aggravating circumstance that it was made as part of a “gang.” In sum, fines and bails have reached 200,000 pesos [approx. 15,200 USD] for these young boys of medium and lower socioeconomic levels.
The event caught media attention because the 300 graffiti writers aged between 11 and 21 years old (in Mexico, legal age is 18) and their “attack” was made in order to record it for their graffiti video series called “Destrucción visual” [Visual destruction] [video]. Publishing flyers in Fotologs [example, es] and invitations as comments in the Fotologs of their friends, they organized meeting points for the “attack” that would take place on a Sunday afternoon.
This is a video taken by one of the participants:
In the coverage of the arrests, the media compared the event to the protests of “los tapados” [“the blockers”] (violent groups that blocked the transit of avenues a couple of months ago) and to the elaborated system of drug-trade and organized crime in the city.
Nonetheless, a week after the “attack,” a debate was held on the television show Cambios [Changes] on local channel 12. In the transmission, government employees, teachers, activists and graffiti artists recognized publicly that the sanctions to the young boys had been inappropriate. It was mentioned that two minors remained arrested for more than two days while the authorities processed the event, violating the Convention On The Rights of the Child.
Alejandra Rangel, President of the Social Development Council of the State of Nuevo Leon, argued the following in the debate [video]:
Somos una sociedad, específicamente en este estado de Nuevo León, muy excluyente. Porque si revisamos a niveles internacionales y en otros estados, aquí hay verdaderamente un exceso y una reacción exagerada frente a los jóvenes [que hacen graffiti] que además están protestando por algo.
The reactions of the citizens are mixed: some call for an increase in the sanctions for those who practice graffiti, increased fines and detention time; others consider that graffiti is not a crime that deserves imprisonment.
User @paulinoo shares through Twitter [es] his encounter with the paintings the same day they were made:
Ayer, venta de discos en bazaar. De regreso, me llamó la atención el nuevo macro-graffiti. “Siempre paso y no me había fijado”, pensé.
MexMen writes very straightforward against graffiti in his blog Mexablog [es]:
Que poca madre de esta gente, pinches cholos vale madre, nada más dan dolores de cabeza a la sociedad. Hasta los padres andan de llorones por su ‘angelito’ como si no supieran lo que hacen, cárcel a todos, hasta a los menores.
In a comment to the article written by blogger SinFUL regarding the macropainting [es], user Roxx considers that illegal graffiti could difficult [es] to obtain more “cultural” spaces and projects for young people:
mientras se sigan haciendo las cosas asi al chile de forma ilegal el gobierno, los fondos de cultura, arte o a quienes correspondan fomentar espacios para este tipo de acciones, seguiran sin tomar en cuenta o realizando apoyos minimos a quienes de vdd quieren hacer las cosas bien. somos una sociedad, debe existir el respeto pero la marabunta esta acostumbrada a arrebatar o perjudicar creyendose en su derecho…
On the other side of the story, YouTube user reggaeesmivida12, advocates for the crew involved in the attack in one of the videos he recorded that Sunday [es]:
No somos delicuentes
Solo expresamos lo qe sentimos con aerosol (Y)
saludos para la bandera qe fue y para loqe a atoraron qe mal pedo pero ps (Y) ni pedo asi es estoo y asi va seguir siento a darle para adelante bandaa sbrs
We are not criminals
We only express what we feel with aerosol spray paint
Greetings to all who were part of it and those who were caught it is a shame… but that is the way it is and that is the way it will be, so let’s move forward you all
Fotolog user Noktur_one, also part of the graffiti attack, questions the younger boys of the group [es] that revealed details of “Destrucción Visual” videos to the media:
ESE DE TODA LA BANDA KE FUE A DEJAR SU MARKA
CHIDO POR AIIER FUE EL ATAKE MAS VERGA NUNKA ANTES VISTO..
KE MAL PEDO POR LOS KE AGARRARON FUE POR LA KULPA DE LOS MORROS PALETAS KE IVAN Y NO VALEN VERGA..
TO THOSE WHO WENT TO LEAVE THEIR MARK
COOL FOR YESTERDAY IT WAS THE MOST AWESOME ATTACK EVER SEEN
BAD LUCK TO THOSE WHO WERE CAPTURED, IT WAS THE KIDS’ FAULT THAT WERE GOSSIPING AND ARE NOT WORTH A F*CK
User @ivanramos from Twitter considers that what happened in the overpass of Constitution Avenue is part of a movement in the city [es]:
más que jóvenes divirtiéndose, los graffiteros son una muestra de que mty está viva, hay gente que se quiere expresar y no caer en represión
In the Mexablog article, user LUEGONE comments that there is no way to stop the graffiti movement [es], and taking spaces is similar to what is seen in political campaigns:
Chingon lo que hicieron esos lokos…
LOS POLITICOS HACEN LO MISMO PERO PARA SU PUBLICIDAD
ellos estan dando el ejemplo…
“DE QUE SE KEJAN”
Que legalicen el graffiti o no,
el movimiento seguira
en todos lados,
por todos lados
Awesome what those crazy dudes did …
POLITICIANS DO THE SAME BUT WITH PUBLICITY
they are giving the example…
“WHAT DO YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT?”
Graffiti legalized or not
the movement will continue
and through every way
After the growing attention to the “attack”, several videos have been published in YouTube to encourage the young boys imprisoned because of their participation on the overpass on Constitution Avenue. Their videos include amateur recordings [example] taken with the cellphones by those who were part of the “attack”, as well as photographs of the paintings before they were cleaned by the municipality government. Also, videos of “Destrucción Visual” can be found in YouTube, featuring examples of the graffiti made by them.
At the same time, local television shows focused on recognized “legal” graffiti, street art and murals created with permission from the owners, in an attempt to understand this type of artistic activity.