While there were many factors that led to my falling in love with Oaxaca, the thing that grabbed my attention immediately was the amazing street art. The photo above was taken within my first minute of exploring Oaxaca. It is hard for me to explain exactly what was most striking for me. I have seen examples of street art in many other places; there are certainly many wonderful examples at home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Returning to Oakland, I have actually noticed street art that had missed my eye previously; this made me realize that one of the things that really stood out in Oaxaca was the sheer density of the street art. It seems to be everywhere—at times it seemed difficult to find a street that didn’t have any street art. While more traditional graffiti and tagging was present, this seemed overwhelmed by the other styles and media represented. There was brush painting, stencil painting, wheat paste flyers, mixed media, political art, fine art, cartoon-like art, woodblock prints, traditional art, contemporary art, funny art, serious art. Much of the artwork is openly political, but even that which isn’t is often thought provoking. I think the variety and range of the art is definitely one of the things I most love.
Oaxaca has long been known for its cuisine and fine art, but in 2006, repressive government crackdowns on protesting teachers lead to more widespread protests against the oppressive regime. This escalation lead to an explosion of street art throughout the city. The Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca (ASARO) was created at this time, a collective formed specifically to create political street art, including street art, in order to raise awareness in the community and bring people together to create lasting change.
Unfortunately the nature of street art means that many of these pieces no longer exist, as they fade and tear, are covered and changed. I was surprised that there seemed to be little concerted effort by the powers that be to censor this art by covering or destroying it in any concerted effort. Torn edges of wheat pasted posters were evident, but often times the
se were for flyers for specific events long past. It was not clear to me that it was a clear attempt to destroy the artwork.
I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to explore and document some of the street artwork of Oaxaca. One of my great disappointments was as I left, on my way to the airport we drove past a university whose walls were covered in striking political art. Alas, I had not time to stop and look more closely. Hopefully it will remain when I return next year…
To see more of my photos: