Throughout time, art has been the mean by which societies express their philosophy, their cosmovision and, more importantly, their reality. In modern times, the evolution of art has created new forms of expression, such as street art. Once seen as a form of rebellion and social disobedience, street art has evolved to become an aspect of our daily lives, present almost everywhere we go and providing a connotative perspective of the reality surrounding us. In Latin America, where the artistic schools don’t have as much tradition as its European counterparts, these new artistic expressions, specially graffiti and street art, have become more and more present in cities and towns all across the region. By taking a look into some of these works, we don’t only see shapes and colors, but also the thoughts and the problems reigning in this region, where developing economies try to keep up with the more industrialized and developed ones, while dealing with issues such as globalization, poverty, inequality and marginalization.
In the last decades, the rise in these artistic disciplines has allowed artists to thrive, either by creating their own organizations, promoting their work or even participating in national and international events. In Peru, artists like Daniel Cortez, better known by his pseudonym Decertor, have been able to stand out and show their talent, transmitting his thoughts and feelings through the walls. In most of his works, he tries to reproduce the most human features of his surroundings with lots of symbolisms, giving us a deeper grasp of the society behind his thinking. The artwork presented was performed in the Puñun Community, a small town located in the Occidental Mountain Range, about 4 hours by car from Lima. In it, he doesn’t only give us an accurate picture of the Peruvian countryside and its traditions, but also allows us to have a deeper grasp of the community and its reality.
On it, the author represents the strong cultural importance of music for the town. In addition, he includes elements that highlight certain community aspects, such as the hands with the corn cob, which represents the economic livelihood of the town. Moreover, the faces he shows are incredibly realistic, able to personify the harsh reality the people in the community face. In the depth of the mountain range it is quite difficult to gain access to many basic services like education and healthcare. According to an interview carried out by Inter Press Service, the consequences of the lack of services and development include a malnutrition rate over 50%, alimentary insecurity and lack of potable water (Jara, M, 2018). Furthermore, specialists predict that climate change will represent a threat to agriculture, their only true source of income and subsistence, further worsening their situation. Unfortunately, these conditions can be easily found throughout Peru and Latin America, both in mountainous regions and valleys and in desertic and jungle climates.
Another important aspect of the mural is that it highlights the indigenous roots of the community. In the author’s words, he tries to capture both the living traditions and the ones that are fading away, as the ‘rain quest’, where a community member undertakes a pilgrimage to the nearest lake and performs a ceremony for the rain to come. Generally, in Latin America, most of the culture finds its roots in the indigenous customs and habits. However, throughout time, indigenous groups haven’t always enjoyed from privileged conditions; nowadays, many indigenous groups suffer from discrimination, inequality and marginalization. From the structural violence suffered since childhood to the labor discrimination they might suffer in the cities, normally indigenous people find it hard to succeed, both in its own communities and outside of them. Sadly, this isn’t a problem reserved only for indigenous people, as poor people both in rural and urban centers also suffer from marginalization. Generally, these situations lead to the rise of problems afflicting Latin America, such as shanty towns, illiteracy, and violence, the latter one being the most serious. Therefore, it is important to be able to understand the complexity of conflicts and how people are really affected by them, and not only trying to empathize with them, but work to create a fair environment for all human beings.
In the same way, it is important to acknowledge and appreciate that, through works like this, artists are able to express their thoughts and point of view on how they see their society and their surroundings, while also raising awareness on social issues affecting many people around the world. As globalized students, we need to be able to understand the causes and the implications linked to this and many other modern issues. Similarly, it is our duty to create the necessary conditions for people, either the ones mentioned above or any other violented group, to enjoy a dignified life under the principles of equality and respect. Finally, we should embrace art as a modern way to raise awareness on social issues and promote artists like Daniel Cortez to continue enriching this wonderful world with their works.
Either way, Daniel Cortez is able to create a wonderful piece of art, in which he is able to combine many elements of this small town and fill them with color and life. In the process, it is amazing how he manages to reflect some deeper aspects of the community he observed. Also, he is able to highlight the most important aspect of the society, which is, in the very end, human beings. Artists like him should be given more praise and their work should be spread, as it fills us not only with joy and color in what is, many times, the greyness of the asphalt jungle.