Mexico is no stranger to mural art as a transformative community expression. Think Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Now a group of artists, known as German Crew (the Germ Collective), initiated community participation to turn the central Mexican barrio of Las Palmitas (Little Palms), Pachuca into a rainbow-tinted mountainside town.
Enrique Gomez, the project’s director, never imagined that it would have such a positive community impact. “Honestly, what surprises me the most is that people are really changing. They are growing, there is more community spirit,” says Gomez, whose tag is MYBE. He knows about personal change, having transformed his own life from gang member to street artist with a purpose.
The town, typical of Latin American highlands barrios, climbs the steep mountainside and the houses jut out as if the stacked boxes were carved from the mountain itself. The narrow, steep steps go up and up; a climb not for the weak of heart or lungs. The buildings are usually colorless, except for the red tile roofs. Sometimes a mere infusion of color is the perfect eye candy to enliven a dampened spirit, and the same is true of a drab, low-income town.
The first step was to convince the city government to sponsor the “Pachuca Paints Itself” project. Then they needed to convince ALL the residents to allow their homes to be painted, or there would be no continuity. Then the collective needed to entice enough residents, including some gang members, to provide the labor of love needed to paint the town. Next, they needed to solicit the 5,000 plus gallons of paint required to cover 16,000 square feet of 200 homes in swirls and waves of vibrant color.
This was not about painting individual homes to create a colorful patchwork, but rather, a gigantic mural that encompasses the town as a whole work of art. Some inspired artists, however, have taken to painting their own descriptive murals along the interior streets, so that the town mural can be seen as one image from afar, while individual treasures of art can be viewed up close by the residents within.
The project has been so transformative for Las Palmitas, there are plans to replicate it in the neighboring town of Cubitos. This artful project personifies the expression “color my world with love!”