by Cat Calhoun
San Miguel de Allende, GTO, México
Life in San Miguel sometimes looks a lot like life everywhere else. We still have to cook, clean, shop for necessities, pay bills, work (online, but still), and take care of an aging parent. That means there generally isn’t a ton of fun for play, but we work it in when we can.
This week DeLora found an awesome mural tour in the Guadalupe Arts District (Distrito de Arte Guadalupe) given by an incredibly knowledgeable woman by the name of Colleen Sorenson. Colleen has been a key factor in legalizing urban art both here in San Miguel and in San Antonio, Texas.
Urban murals are created by street artists with incredible levels of talent who miraculously convert blank walls into amazing murals. Here in San Miguel, Colleen has founded Muros en Blanco as an outlet for these artists, getting permission from the owners of the blank canvases, and acquiring paint for the muralists.
Colleen’s tour is incredible, not just because she is an artist herself, but because she knows the artists and the works intimately. Her 2.5 hour tour through Colonia Guadalupe includes detailed information about the history of urban art in San Miguel as well as information from the artists themselves about the works they have completed, the mediums they used, and what inspired them. While many of the murals are done by local artists, you will find talent from around the world displayed here. It’s some fabulous eye candy, a great walk, and a fun education.
The Life of a Wall
Impermanence is the rule of life on this earth, so don’t count on these murals all being here if you decide to come for a visit. They decay and crumble over time. Some are maintained, but many are blasted away and replaced with something new. Some visitors express dismay over this, but when you ask the artists, they explain that this is just the life of a wall.
The mural above, for example, less than a year old, is peeling very badly. There are a couple of reasons for this. Walls in many parts of Mexico are made of brick, which is porous by nature. Walls might be covered with concrete stucco, left as bare brick, or painted. The government gives away exterior paints for free, but they are chalky paints and will actually come off on your skin and clothes if you lean against them. (Hint: don’t lean against walls in Mexico. This stuff doesn’t come off easily.)
You can paint murals over them, but they will eventually flake away, especially during and after our wet season. Because the brick is porous, moisture seeps in causes this chalky paint flake even faster. Because the mural above sits alongside the Arroyo de Las Cachinches, which carries water that flows out of the mountains during rainy season, it’s subject to even more moisture damage. The murals along this stretch will probably be painted over again during the January painting season.
Fun fact: over and over again I have seen paint damage right around the knee to hip height on walls all over Mexico. Colleen explained why. When you see people leaning against walls in Mexico (and all the cool people do it), they usually put one foot up on the wall. Over time this causes damage to the paint. The damage is especially noticeable on “photo walls,” or mural that are popular for selfies and other photo ops.
Want to see all of the cool images I captured? Take a look at my Flickr feed. You can find them in an array of sizes and there’s a cool slideshow option.