MEXICO CITY - Observed from a car riser, the city is a sea of concrete that extends to the horizon, broken only by clusters of skyscrapers and the remains of ancient volcanoes. Some 60 feet below is the borough of Iztapalapa, a maze of winding streets and alleys, its cinder-block houses enveloping the neighborhood's hills in a tasteless gray.
But then, on a roof, a sudden explosion of colors: a monarch butterflygiant perched on top of a purple flower. Further along the route of the last cable car in Mexico City, a toucan and a scarlet macaw watch the passengers. Later, on a canary yellow wall, there is a young girl in a red dress, her eyes closed in an expression of relative happiness.
The line of 6 , 5 miles, inaugurated in August , is the longest public cable car in the world, according to the city government. As well as cutting commuting time in half for many workers in the capital's most populous arrondissement, the cable car has an added attraction: exuberant murals painted by an army of local artists, many of whom do not. can be seen only from above.
"There are paintings and murals throughoutalong the way, ”said Cesar Enrique Sanchez del Valle, music teacher, who was taking the cable car home on a recent Tuesday afternoon. "That's fine, something unexpected. Image
Some 140 artists have painted the area with murals featuring national icons such as Credit ... Luis Antonio Rojas for Hfrance.fr
The paintings on the roof are the latest step in a beautification project by the Iztapalapa government, which has hired some 140 artists over the past three years to cover the neighborhood with nearly 7,000 works of public art, creating explosions of color in one of the the most criminal neighborhoods in Mexico City .
"People want to save their history, the history of the neighborhood," said the mayor of the arrondissement, Clara Brugad a Molina. "Iztapalapa becomes a giant gallery.
Extending towards the outskirts of Mexico City, Iztapalapa is home to 1.8 million people residents, some of whom are among the city's poorest. Many work in wealthier neighborhoods, and before the cable car, that often meant trips of several hours.
Like many poor urban areas in Mexico, Iztapalapa has long been affected by both a lack of basic services, such as running water, as well as high levels of violence, often linked to organized crime. Image Almost 7,000 works of public art cover the neighborhood, creating explosions of color in one of Mexico City 's most criminal neighborhoods. Credit ... Luis Antonio Rojas for Hfrance.fr
The Mayor's Art Initiative is part of a larger plan to make Iztapalapa safer, including street lamps that now bathe once-dark main roads in light.
The murals feature national icons like the
But there are also winks of 'eye to other local heroes.
On a scarlet background with blue, yellow, teal and lime shapes floating behind it, the image of a woman with short hair smiles at the viewer: this is Lupita Bautista, originally from Iztapalapa and a world champion boxer who is almost as colorful in real life.
One recent morning Ms Bautista, 33, walked into her gym wearing neon green sneakers, a pink beanie and a rainbow tie-dye sweatshirt with her name scribbled on in fuchsia sequins on the front. Image Lupita Bautista, 33, world boxing champion, prepares to train in her gym in Iztapalapa. She is one of the people depicted in the murals and remembers a time when her childhood homeance had no electricity. Credit ... Luis Antonio Rojas for Hfrance.fr
"I like the colors to be so strong She said of the government-funded project which, in addition to creating the murals, has transformed the neighborhood where she trains to create a mosaic of colors by lining the houses with cinder blocks. brightly colored, a paint job that would be unaffordable for many residents. "It gives it a lot of life.
Ms. Bautista's childhood story is familiar in the borough. When she was young, her house in Iztapalapa had no electricity - lit only by candlelight at night. His neighborhood had no sidewalks or even paved roads.
"Everythingwas gray, ”she recalls.
Crime was also a problem, with robberies and murders so frequent that Ms Bautista said her mother never let her or her sister leave the house. home unless it was to go to school.
"I was terrified," she said. "I had a feeling that something was going to happen to me.
With many avenues now well lit, Ms. Bautista said that she felt much safer to run after dark.
"I was built to run in the streets," said she said of her youth roaming the avenues and alleys of the neighborhood long before she became a fighting champion. "Now you can run with a lot more safety and concentration, without thinking about when someone is going to jump and you ffear area. " Image Gender-based violence is the root of the mural and lighting project, according to the mayor, and many murals celebrate the women they be residents or famous people in history. Credit ... Luis Antonio Rojas for Hfrance.fr
But despite the efforts of the government, most of the inhabitants d 'Iztapalapa continue to live in fear: According to a target June survey from Mexico 's national statistics agency, nearly eight in 10 residents said they did not feel they wereas safe - among the highest rates of any city y in the country.
Women in particular face pervasive violence in Iztapalapa, which ranks among the top 25 communes in the country for femicide, in which a woman is killed due to his gender. From 2012 to 2017, city security cameras recorded more sexual assaults against women in Iztapalapa than in any other district of Mexico City, according to a 2019 report from the 'National Autonomous University of Mexico .
This gender-based violence is what prompted the mural and lighting project ect in the first place, according to the mayor: creating paths where women could feel safe and securegoing home. Many murals celebrate women, whether they are residents like Ms. Bautista or famous figures from history as well as feminist symbols.
" We are trying to get the streets back for women, "Ms. Brugada said.
But not everyone is convinced that the strategy works.
Daniela Ceron, 46, was born in Iztapalapa when it was only a hilly community, with open fields where farmers grew crops.
"It was like a small town," remembers Ceron. "You used to see the beautiful hills.
In the 1970s, the area began to urbanize rapidly.
"Any minute you would see a little light here, a fartite light there ”, declared Mrs. Ceron. "Until the boom it started to fill with people. Image Daniela Ceron, 46, transgender activist, at Three Crosses Hill in Iztapalapa. She says the murals are beautiful but haven't done much to make her feel more secure. Credit ... Luis Antonio Rojas for Hfrance.fr
The population surge, both families leaving downtown Mexico City and migrants from rural areas, has also resulted in an influx of crime. For Ms Ceron, who is transgender, this meant facing not only widespread violence, but also the prejudices of living in a religious neighborhood conserver - every year Iztapalapa attracts millions of followers to a giant reconstruction of the crucifixion of Christ .
"This religious stigma weighs heavily against you "said Mrs Ceron.
As with regard to the murals, she says that they are beautiful but do not have does a lot to make her feel more secure.
"I don't mind having a really nice street painting if three blocks away, they rob or murder people, ”she said.
Alejandra Atrisco Amilpas, an artist who has done something 300 murals across Iztapalapa, thinks they can make residents more proud of where they live, but admits they don'tcan go further. Image Alejandra Atrisco Amilpas painted some 300 murals across Iztapalapa. She acknowledges that murals cannot improve lives, but says her work represents the characters of the neighborhood in color. Credit. .. Luis Antonio Rojas for Hfrance.fr
"Painting helps a lot, but unfortunately it cannot change the reality of social networks. problems, ”she said. “A mural won't change if you care about the battered woman around the corner. "
Ms Atrisco, who is homosexual, said she had encountered conservative attitudes.ices during the project, whether it was male artists doubting her abilities or local officials she painted LGBTQ-themed murals.
" Violence against women, yes, but lesbians, no, "she said with a sad smile.
Ms. Atrisco believes his work can affect the lives of residents by portraying Iztapalapa characters in color.
"Every day you face a new challenge, every day a new wall and a new story, ”she said. “You make your dreams come true a bit, you become a dream maker. "