When local graff writers in Queretaro, Mexico heard that New York’s famous photographer Martha Cooper was going to be in their town for a new exhibition they decided to welcome her in the best way they knew how: A graffiti jam on a train.
With the help of the organizers at Nueve Arte Urbano, the local kings and queens scored a long wall on a busy major avenue that they could paint subway cars on and convert to an NYC train. They hoped Martha would feel at home seeing this and it looked like she definitely did.
It’s a fast-growing major city without a subway, even though it could definitely use a more inclusive and efficient public transportation system since its quick growth has swelled to a million inhabitants. Scores of multi-national corporations left the US and set up shop here since they wrote the NAFTA trade deal and now employ this highly educated population. Many universities, lower wages, and an easier regulatory environment have brought the big companies here as well as the fact that the city boasts an attractive protected historical area that was declared a World UNESCO zone. Now they have a subway, at least a temporary painted one.
The neighborhood where the wall is located is called “San Francisquito” or Little San Francisco – a sort of sister city for many of the folks who have family in that US city as well. Rich in character and history, the neighborhood retains a distinct connection to indigenous culture: For example this is the home of Los Concheros, a group of native indigenous people in Mexico who have roots in the Chichimecas, Aztecs and, Mexicas who perform traditional dances dating back to the early colonial period.
Mostly residential, with narrow cobblestone streets and family-owned small business and grocery stores, we saw many locals who appeared pleased for the industry of local youth in a mural that stirred some excitement and pride.
They stopped by and commented on the new works and wondered where the action was coming from as aerosol lettering and characters began to populate the train sides.
was an interlude of serendipity that the visiting New Yorkers were not
expecting – a sunny day full of love and art. Martha happily obliged to
requests for photos, to write tags in black books and thanked each of them for
their gifts of t shirts, stickers and even a miniature portrait of her drawn in
The city changes at night – the blinking, the beams, the shadows. The tires screech, the leaves scatter across pavement in the dusty breezes. The hushed voices, the silences. The spraying of gestures and earnest street choreography inside the tunnel while others sleep.
It is an impromptu invitation to discover the creative spark as it reveals itself on the city in the dark; now part of the city loudly, quietly. To have this moment, with these people, in this place, with this history, on this precipice… it is a moment of wonder that lifts us all off of the ground, if only a few centimeters. Then we are back here, together, in the night.