San Quintín artist is replacing graffitied walls with murals as a tool for social reintegration in local migrant neighborhoods.
Muralism is making a comeback, appearing on several walls throughout San Quintín, here in the northwest region of Baja California, Mexico. Beyond the visual, they are creating a deeper impact today helping to generate social change in migrant communities that are often marginalized with a high incidence rate of poverty, addiction and violence.
Enough impact to reach the streets of some of the most dangerous neighborhood and approach the families and neighbors to propose a unique, artistic initiative.
The neighborhood murals first began as an idea by local artist Rogelio Santos-Cory, who moved to the San Quintin Valley region from Oaxaca with his family when he was only five with his parents working in the local fields.
But Santos-Cory envisioned a different future for himself and studied art, obtaining a degree in plastic arts.
Motivated to preserve the customs and traditions he inherited from his parents, he traveled back to Oaxaca to learn about his roots and culture.
He eventually returned to San Quintin with the idea that he would share with his community the importance of valuing national identity and why in 2016 he opened the Alternative Space for the Arts in San Quintín (EAA).
Urban Art Workshops
Rogelio saw an opportunity to work with some of the neighborhoods where he grew up and where he first proposed the idea of urban art workshops. At first, some ignored the idea but many young people – especially children – were curious, asking questions and showed interest in learning more.
In the days that followed, some members of these communities accepted the offer and took an artist’s brush in hand, expressing what they wanted to see, and what would become central elements of the murals to be created on the streets where they live.
Upon learning about Santos-Cory’s work, the Baja California Secretary of Culture invited him to join its project Taller de Arte Urbano, with the slogan that “Muralism is still in force.”
Working in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, the Las Misiones mural was begun in the Triqui community, one of the neighborhoods with the highest rate of violence in the San Quintín Valley.
Rogelio Santos-Cory shared that interest in participating in the effort by the local community was so high that they themselves helped in painting the mural as a way of paying homage to a young man from their neighborhood who had recently been shot and killed in that very place.
“The 92 meter long by three meter high mural is well cared for,” shared Rogelio, “something that was nearly impossible before as newly painted walls usually became quickly tagged with graffiti.”
The Art of Social Change
In this artistic / cultural endeavor, artist Julia Celeste also participated and agreed the bonds in the local community have been greatly strengthened where even a four year old boy named Edgar helped, participating from start to finish in the mural’s creation.
“Now in this place – which was very dangerous – there now an increased sense of respect for art as more people realize that painting can be used as a means of expression, and even as a means of employment,” explained Celeste.
“Some of the boys who participated in the mural have a history of crime but also have impressive drawing skills. Working on this project they discovered that they could actually work and make a living from drawing.”
The second mural was created on a wall in Bahía de Los Ángeles, at the remote southeastern corner of the new San Quintin municipality and state of Baja California, along the Sea of Cortez.
Santos-Cory shared that “on a wall measuring nearly 8 meters long and four meters high, we created several distinctive elements that help identify the area including the sea, a whale shark and a bighorn sheep. The idea was to paint something in which they could find pride in something that is part of their community and local identity.”
The third stage of this project was headed by the artist Ariel Sánchez and was created in the Trece de Mayo neighborhood – another migrant neighborhood in the San Quintin Valley.
The venue was a local soccer field where the community also participated in creating the mural on the walls that supported the spectator stands.
The Baja California State Secretary of Culture will continue to work together with the local artists with plans to continue creating additional murals in the communities of Villa de Jesús María, Ejido Emiliano Zapata, Camalú and El Rosario.
Santos-Cory is a young man making a deep mark here in our region and you can see some of his artwork up close on the giant SQBC letters in the park in Lazaro Cardenas facing the HSBC bank; emblematic of San Quintin, Baja California.
Rogelio continues to work with his art and serve the youth of the San Quintin Valley via classes, workshops and public speaking, armed with some very impressive creative talents.