They Killed Him
“Mi hijo murió hace tres años,” the petite Colombian woman told us with tears in her eyes. Cristina and I were leaving Comuna 13, a district in Medellin, and had struck up a conversation with a woman walking to the metro. “Lo mataron.”
Her son had crossed the street, unaware of the invisible border that, upon crossing, would cause his death. Had the situation improved in recent years? No, she responded, a bus driver was shot three hours ago.
Cristina and I confronted heartbreaking tales of violence and death during our time in Colombia. While the civil stability in Colombia is improving, the poorest comunas still suffer. Meanwhile, tourists such as us are captivated and moved by the art that flows from these streets.
Cultural Production of Art
Street artists are adding to Colombia’s cultural production of art and using art as a coping response for processing and overcoming conflict. Street art embodies Colombian resilience by functioning as a cathartic tool that fights against issues such as self-censorship.
Self-censorship has manifested as a protective response in the face of paramilitary groups, who have been tied to unsolved deaths of Colombian social activists. Conflicts such as this are represented in the Colombian street art, which demonstrates the lasting effects of instability within the fabric of everyday life.
Art as Speech
However, street art is also a medium that empowers Colombians to speak out against these forces of crime and corruption that still plague the people. Its messages are felt by the viewers who are confronted with these artworks in public spaces. This interaction with art creates discourse, inspires action, and leads to change.
Art for Change
On a personal note, Colombian street art demanded that I confront my own struggles, bringing into question how I lived my life and opening my eyes to the diversity of life and struggle that existed around me. While the vibrant colors and larger-than-life murals capture the imagination of viewers, art productions’ deeper political and social messages attract the attention of scholars and fill pages of academic literature.
Power of Beauty
I find Colombian street art to exemplify the power of beauty not simply in its physical presence, but through its embodiment of Colombia’s grander historical context and the impeding social and political evolutions within Colombian society.