When Iztapalapians Fear Crime, Their Government Paints Murals

(p. A6) MEXICO CITY — Observed from a soaring cable car, the city is a sea of concrete stretching to the horizon, ruptured only by clusters of skyscrapers and the remains of ancient volcanoes.

. . .

The 6.5-mile line, inaugurated in August [2021]When I, is the longest public cableway in the world, according to the city government. As well as halving the commute time for many workers in the capital’s most populous borough, the cable car has an added attraction: exuberant murals painted by an army of local artists, many of which can be viewed only from above.

. . .

The rooftop paintings are the latest step in a beautification project from Iztapalapa’s government, which has hired some 140 artists over the past three years to blanket the neighborhood with almost 7,000 pieces of public art, creating explosions of color in one of the most crime-ridden areas of Mexico City.

. . .

But despite the government’s efforts, most in Iztapalapa continue to live in fear: According to a June survey from Mexico’s national statistics agency, nearly eight of 10 residents said they felt unsafe — among the highest rate for any city in the country.

Women in particular face pervasive violence in Iztapalapa, which ranks among the top 25 municipalities in the country for femicide, in which a woman is killed because of her gender. From 2012 to 2017, city security cameras recorded more instances of sexual assault against women in Iztapalapa than in any other Mexico City borough, according to a 2019 report from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

That gender-based violence is what prompted the mural and lighting project in the first place, according to the mayor: to create pathways where women could feel safe walking home. Many of the murals celebrate women, either residents like Ms. Bautista or famous figures from history as well as feminist symbols.

. . .

Daniela Cerón, 46, was born in Iztapalapa when it was just a rugged community, with open fields where farmers grew crops.

“It was like the little town,” Ms. Cerón recalled. “You used to see the beautiful hills.”

. . .

As far as the murals go, she says they look beautiful but have done little to make her feel safer.

“It does nothing for me to have a very pretty painted street if three blocks away, they’re robbing or murdering people,” she said.

Alejandra Atrisco Amilpas, an artist who has painted some 300 murals across Iztapalapa, believes they can make residents prouder of where they live, but she admits they can only go so far.

“Paint helps a lot, but sadly it can’t change the reality of social problems,” she said.“A mural isn’t going to change whether you care about the woman being beat up on the corner.”

For the full story, see:

Oscar Lopez. “MEXICO CITY DISPATCH; A Respite for Lives Battered by Poverty and Crime.” The New York Times (Thursday, October 14, 2021): A6.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “MEXICO CITY DISPATCH; Frida Kahlo, Aztec Gods: Can Art Lift Up a Poor Neighborhood?”)

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