A worker in orange work suit stands infront of a grey painted wall next to a mural in sao paulo, brazil

Largest South America Graffiti Wall Erased

The beauty of Brazil has never stopped seducing the world into submission. From those white sandy beaches to Pico da Neblina, the country boast both of aesthetics, and football talent that till today captures millions of fans.

Among the charms that Brazil offers, is a beautiful metropolitan, claiming the position of the largest city in South America. This state is rich in culture and free expression. São Paulo, is not be underestimated as it supports 12.04 million people as of 2016.

The culture of the city can be illustrated in the art that paints the city. Along the 23 de Maio highway, your eyes feast on art like no other. The street mural displays the work of graffiti artists over 5000 square meters. It all started with Rui Amaral and 200 artists joining in creating this beautiful piece of artwork.

It’s a tale of love and danger. Amaral started his love affair with putting his artwork out there. What better audience than a highway? Millions of eyes who have nothing else but to look as they wait to get to their destinations. He used this opportunity to protest the injustices he saw were afflicting the society, and in the mean while dancing with the police.

It definitely had an impact on how the society could express itself. It became such a cultural phenomenon, foreigners flooded to the country to see the street mural. It became engraved in the urban history, culture and not to forget tourism in São Paulo. The mural made its debut in 2015, the office of the mayor sang its praises.

The fall

They say changing winds abides no greeting, recently there have been drastic changes at 23 de Maio. In January, sanitation workers got busy exacting orders from the new sitting city mayor, Joaoa Doria. The directive to the sanitation workers, was to paint over the beloved mural. The city woke up to the horror that their mural was no longer going to be part of them.

Wielding a spraying device himself, the mayor took it upon himself to take part in the destruction. The mayor and his sparkling millions has been making a few changes. He plans to enforce a restoration of the city to its original state. Pretty but without all the exciting stuff.

His campaign aims to paint the city one color, replacing broken street essentials like trash cans. The clean-up also includes covering up graffiti on city walls, planting trees, and collecting garbage. Although a noble idea by the millionaire business man, the act put to trial the value of art and if protection of art was a worthy cause.

As situations go, the campaign has collected loyal supporters. Praising the work of the Doria administration who are keen in keeping the city clean and devoid of mixed messages. Fines have been increased to discourage anyone from engaging in graffiti activities in any part of the city.

before and after picture of the mural cover up

There are others who view things differently though. The mayor’s critics suggest that this is all a plan to sell São Paulo off to investors. They claim that the mayor aims to privatize public land, and probably put up city parks for concessions. This sent the twitter world into an angry rant.

Despite this, a trend is also arising in other cities like lima inspired by the ‘Pretty City’ trend. Cities like Lima and New York have waged a war against graffiti on public property. The mayor however retorts that he is pro art. To add on, the office of the mayor put out a statement that some of the art was old and that it gave the city a dilapidated look.

To compensate for this injustice, the mayor has offered to support a museum of street art. The limits are that the murals to be put up, have to be approved by a committee. Also artists who have private funding are to be handpicked by an independent committee. This puts a limit in the freedom of expression, where artists are forced to box down creativity.

The city clean-up also puts the administration at a bad position as to where the homeless shall be taken. The homeless have been suffering since the city suffered fires between the 70s -80s leaving a large population stranded.

There has been action to protect the remains of the historic mural. The city department dealing in historic preservation, got a judge to cease the repaint of the city mural. This of course put a stick in Doria’s ‘pretty City’ mechanisms. There are rumors however, of the city setting up legalized areas where graffiti can be expressed freely.

It’s a case of compromise for the society. They get to live in a better environment, and still have access to their beloved graffiti murals, at legal, designated areas.