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In Colorful Bogota, New Mayor Shakes Up Debate On Graffiti

Graffiti artists at work in Bogota
Graffiti artists at work in Bogota
Catalina Erazo

BOGOTA Bogotá"s new mayor, the technocratic Enrique Peñalosa, wants to remove some of the Colombian capital's abundant graffiti — those deemed to be "non-artistic." But the move is being perceived by some as a reversal of the socially oriented policies of his predecessor, leftist Gustavo Petro, who essentially considered all such street art socially valid.

Some have called Bogotá the continent's premier graffiti city, and even Petro regulated it to some extent, most recently banning it on public infrastructure such as pedestrian overpasses. Social networks recently lit up about reports that city agents were painting over graffiti on one of the city's main roads and popular graffiti canvasses — the downtown part of 26th Street, not far from hotels and tourist spots. But Daniel Mejía, a security official at city hall, said the sections were actually being prepared for new street art commissioned by the city's arts council, Idartes.

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Bogota mayor Enrique Peñalosa — Photo: Dodo

Peñalosa recently said that "some graffiti" created a threatening environment, and deputy Miguel Uribe Turbay agreed, saying that any graffiti damaging public property would be removed. "Graffiti done ... in an authorized zone is one thing," Turbay said, but "vandalism that ... destroys public infrastructure is quite another. We're going to act with that order in mind."

One graffiti artist, Antrax, is calling such declarations "absurd," while Petro himself reflects ponderously, "Who decides what art is? The state? A censor?"

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Photograph of a large mural of a woman painted in blue on a wall in Naples

A mural of a woman's face in Naples

Oriel Mizrahi/Unsplash
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