Taking it to the streets...
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is located at la mitad del mundo or the middle of the world.
This city of close to two and a half million people has all the characteristics of a major metropolitan area. It also carries all the reminders of the cultural, historical and political forces that have formed today’s Quito.
Graffiti as an urban form of expression seems to be just around every corner. The tone and tenor of these visual messages don’t carry an emphasis on self.
Instead, they are fiercely clear in their concern for the greater, far greater good. Just outside the downtown area of Quito is an entire city block where the walls urge passersby to denounce trafficking in human organs.
The walls and streets surrounding the Universidad Central del Ecuador carry creative missives that take politicians to task about their unfulfilled promises for democracy and peace.
Some simply stated messages call into question the happiness of silence, the unwillingness of some to speak out for reform…
…and other more elaborate messages demand the University expand in ways that serve more people.
Some artists key in on local media, especially newspapers, taking them to task for withholding information and thus compromising the truth.
Politicians seeking to capture the youth vote produce elaborate faux graffiti depicting themselves as trendy subject matter created by non-existent graffiti artists.
This is one of several commissioned murals honoring Eugenio Espejo, recognized as Quito’s first journalist. Espejo, born in 1747, wrote about sanitary conditions (he was a doctor and hygienist). His satirical writings and posters were aimed at provoking authorities into action and inspiring many to work for social change. He also wrote about racial and economic problems. Some note that much of his satirical writings were part of the Age of Enlightenment.
The work of local artisans is a mainstay in the central markets of Ecuador…
…and prominently displayed in Quito’s central square.
Local artisans continue to sell traditional woven goods.
The southern part of Quito is different from the more metropolitan center. Life is tougher here and resources are more scarce. This community center is open all day and for all children. It serves “the children of the street.”
Amazing volunteers teach fundamentals to any and all children who show up at their door. Some children come here after regular school and some come instead of it. For some, it’s the only place they will get a meal for the day. The center serves 60 students and, at best, resources are stretched.
The volunteers insist the emphasis be on the kids and so it is. The students are preparing for New Year’s Eve. Classes are over for the holiday break and students are building displays to celebrate the death of the old year.
Before each display is judged, students dance as part of the end-of-the-year celebration.
Some prefer to watch the celebrations
…while others enjoy participating.
This young girl, dressed in widow’s black, is mourning the death of the old year.
Boys dress as widows as well. Later they go out and stop traffic in order to collect “tolls” as part of the payment for the burial of the old year.
Quito me calienta el corazon — Quito warms my heart.
New York City has been called a mindset more than a physical place. It’s the source of songs, sitcoms and intense social interactions or at times very little interaction in the midst of human density and the pressing need to be at a certain place ten minutes ago. New York City is the site of unrestrained, raw action or public displays of self-expression, all in the challenging conditions and complexities of social drama.
But it is also a place where, sometimes, people engage in unexpected acts of tenderness and create fleeting moments of magic, with fondness. New Yorkers have opinions and they’re willing to share them, whether you ask or not.
Three international graduate students from China, attending Hofstra University, tour Manhattan, the heart of the city, and they offer their take on the sweet madness.
Jing Li, Shanghai, China (MFA Documentary Studies and Production). “People here [New York City] are proud to express themselves, to share their greatest emotions.”
Jing Li, “There is a balance and harmony to the city. You can sense the history and atmosphere.”
Cong Ma, Dalien, China (MA Speech Communication and Rhetorical Studies). “This is an amazing city. It’s important to use your heart to feel New York.”
Cong Ma, “In the subway I saw people from all over the world and that too is so amazing.”
Cong Ma, “Most impressive is Central Park . It can be so romantic.“
Cong Ma, “Do you know what I mean when I say you use your heart to feel New York?”
JingJing Xu, Shanghai, China (MFA Documentary Studies and Production). “I can feel people’s lives here.”
JingJing Xu, “[At home] people ask me where I am from and in New York no one cares where you are from.”
JingJing Xu,“It’s the people . . .”
JingJing Xu, “. . . and the colors in New York . . . And the people . . .”
A little over a year ago, Zuccotti Park and Occupy Wall Street came together for ten weeks. The approach taken by OWS, the message(s) they expressed, and the tone they set are contested terrain. Frequently, the group was described and portrayed as angry protestors in disheveled conditions. In my observation, there are other lessons, other messages, that were at once subtle and powerful, but perhaps missed by mainstream media too often concerned with describing conflict. Did they miss…
The many who came together and combined into a movement
An understanding of the power of organization
The generational exchange of ideas
When words are enough…