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This City Hopes That These Beautiful Giant Murals Will Change Lives

Government officials in Ecatepec, a suburb of Mexico City, hope a major renovation will bring down violence but residents aren't so sure.

Posted on August 24, 2016, at 4:56 p.m. ET

Local and international artists are trying to lower crime in Ecatepec, a violent suburb of Mexico City, by teaming up with the government to create larger-than-life, elaborate street art.

Karla Zabludovsky/BuzzFeed News
Monica Cortina/Konect

Densely packed houses turned its hills into drab, concrete-covered lumps over the decades. About five years ago, the government started painting the exteriors of some of these houses with bright greens, pinks, and blues in an effort to make residents feel more connected to their surroundings and become less aggressive, according to the city’s authorities. So far, about 120,000 houses have been painted.

Recently, a group of artists from the US, Japan, and Australia joined local artists to produce about 50 murals along San Andres Avenue, one of the main streets in Ecatepec.

Monica Cortina/Konect

The project is meant to give residents a sense of belonging and pride and lead to a decrease in violence.

Monica Cortina/Konect
https://www.instagram.com/p/BIwEikPD8_K/?taken-by=konect1

But Ecatepec remains one of the most crime-ridden cities in the country.

Its 1.7 million residents face homicides, robberies, and extortions daily and the problem has only been on the rise since 2014. Women, in particular, are at risk in Ecatepec — femicides, or the killing of women because of their gender, went from three in 2013 to 12 by June of this year, according to local government statistics.Making matters worse, Ecatepec is a major hub for industry, making it a highly polluted area. But it’s also poverty-stricken: When Pope Francis visited the area in February, he spoke about the temptation of wealth, which some interpreted as a veiled dig at the country’s ruling class.
Monica Cortina/Konect

Its 1.7 million residents face homicides, robberies, and extortions daily and the problem has only been on the rise since 2014. Women, in particular, are at risk in Ecatepec — femicides, or the killing of women because of their gender, went from three in 2013 to 12 by June of this year, according to local government statistics.

Making matters worse, Ecatepec is a major hub for industry, making it a highly polluted area. But it’s also poverty-stricken: When Pope Francis visited the area in February, he spoke about the temptation of wealth, which some interpreted as a veiled dig at the country’s ruling class.

Many residents support the project, saying it gives local youth an opportunity to channel their frustration into creativity, legally. But others say that some of the murals have already begun to peel.

“Our taxes are being used on something that doesn’t even work,” Raul Luna, who owns a wood furniture store in the area, told BuzzFeed News.
Karla Zabludovsky/BuzzFeed News

“Our taxes are being used on something that doesn’t even work,” Raul Luna, who owns a wood furniture store in the area, told BuzzFeed News.

Many of the murals have an emotional connection to the neighborhood.

At the bottom of the hill, close to the highway, is one of José María Morelos, a Mexican revolutionary who led the war of independence but was later executed by Spanish forces.
Monica Cortina/Konect / Via instagram.com

At the bottom of the hill, close to the highway, is one of José María Morelos, a Mexican revolutionary who led the war of independence but was later executed by Spanish forces.

There are several murals depicting Quetzalcoatl, the beloved Aztec god of wind and knowledge.

Monica Cortina/Konect / Via instagram.com

John Pugh, an artist from northern California, is currently painting one of them on a four-story-high surface. Pugh, who studied pre-Columbian art in college, designed the mural so that it would elicit a sense of heritage.

Karla Zabludovsky/BuzzFeed News

But Pugh has been struck by the contrast between the area where he’s being housed in Mexico City and Ecatepec. “They’re keeping me kind of sheltered,” he told BuzzFeed News with a laugh.

Monica Cortina/Konect

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