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Anti-graffiti campaign gains support as local news media spreads the word

The Keep Cuenca Beautiful campaign to eliminate graffiti is gaining momentum as local radio, tv and newspapers report on its progress. At last count, more than 400 expats and Cuencanos have participated in cleaning mingas or have signed up for future ones.

Keep Cuenca Beautiful volunteers on the job. (El Tiempo)

According to one of Keep Cuenca Beautiful’s organizers, J.T. Neira, interviews on Radio Tomebamba and television station Unsion have enlisted more Cuencanos in the anti-graffiti project started by expats. A Tuesday photo feature in the El Tiempo newspaper provided additional coverage.

According to Neira and Susan Burke March, who manages the Keep Cuenca Beautiful Facebook page, coordination problems with Cuenca city government have been resolved and graffiti removal is well-underway. “After our interview on Radio Tomebamba, we received the approval from the city to begin our work,” Neira says. The city, which agreed to partner with Keep Cuenca Beautiful three months ago, has obtained a donation of paint from the local Sherwin-Williams distributor for the project.

Participants in the clean-up and painting mingas are focusing efforts in the historic district in the early stages of the campaign, says March. “We plan to expand to other areas of the city later,” she says.

Other volunteers remove graffiti in El Centro. (El Tiempo)

According to Neira, the success of Keep Cuenca Beautiful depends not only on the short-term goal of removing the graffiti but on long-term monitoring to keep it from returning. “First, we clean and repaint the walls on public and private property, including churches and schools,” he says. “Just as important, we are organized so that the volunteers who do the initial clean-up will keep an eye on their space and return, if necessary, to remove new graffiti.”

Neira adds that he is especially pleased to see so many locals volunteering for the clean-up efforts. “Cuencanos now make up the majority our volunteers,” he says.

For more information and to volunteer for Keep Cuenca Beautiful, go to the Facebook page.

27 thoughts on “Anti-graffiti campaign gains support as local news media spreads the word

  1. Thank you all Expats, for this amazing work to keep Cuenca beautiful:))
    Dios les pague por su buena obra…

  2. I think it is important to emphasis that our clean up efforts are directed at the ugly “tagging” which is vandalism, not at the beautiful and wonderful wall murals painted by artists . Perhaps one way to distinguish between the two semantically is to call the first tagging by taggers and the second murals by muralists

        1. Excellent point. Some people would consider the rabbit to be art, some people wouldn’t. Who’s on the art committee?

          1. I don’t think any reasonable person would have a problem with the definition of street art or murals as opposed to vandalism/tagging/graffiti/peeing-on-a-post on private and public property.
            I would invite Dan and John Locke to join us as volunteers to help in Cuenca’s historic district to help us make these determinations.
            This is just one way we choose to take care of our adopted city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site celebrating the 20th anniversary of this designation just last weekend.
            Ken March

            1. You don’t want me there. I’m not elite. I’m just a commoner. I’m OK with you elite gringos deciding how Cuenca should be run.

              1. That’s so silly. We currently have way more Cuencanos as members than we do expats. So, do join in, join us “commoners.” We’ll help you remove the chip from your shoulder.

                1. I should have expected a snarky remark. Typical. If anyone wonders why the overwhelming portion of my friends are Latin Americans…

                  1. There are more than 450 members of Keep Cuenca Beautiful, significantly more than half of the members are Cuencanos. The leader is a Cuencano. Join the group, be part of the solution, join your fellow friends here in Cuenca who are working to effect positive change.

              2. It’s expats like you who discredit the others who have embraced Cuenca as their adopted city and are trying to show Cuencanos that we want to be a part of their community

      1. I wonder why a few people keep asking the question about whether some guy’s initials spray painted on the side of some person’s house should be considered “art” in some way. Yes, maybe 1% of the spray painted initials might be considered artistic, but vandalism is really not free speech in how most people look at the problem. In South Carolina, we had a saying for people who focus on the 1% and not on the 99%.

        Those people were, “Picking fly shit out of the pepper.”

        Please show me ONE wall in our city that does not look very much improved because volunteers used their money, time and effort to remove the spray-painted “art” and repaint and restore those walls to a more uniform condition. Please share one situation where a tourist or visitor has said, “Gee, what happened to that really striking wall that had all those kid’s initials and crap on it?”

        And those paper posters that are stuck on all of the flat metal surfaces and telephone poles everywhere sure serve a good community communications purpose, I suppose.

        Maybe these supporters of such “local artwork preservation” should go out and ask the homeowners their opinions about some of this apparent “free speech art” that keeps appearing on the walls of their properties… WE sure get a lot of positive comments when we are working to Keep Cuenca Beautiful.

        Hermosa Cuenca.

        1. One can see the benefits of the clean up by walking around El Centro. I, for one, am very grateful for these hardworkers.

      2. One difference between graffiti and art is that the latter has the permission of the building’s or wall’s owner.

  3. The difference between Loja & Cuenca is that, in Loja, the CULTURE is against grafitti. The longer the cleanup effort goes on in Cuenca, the more chance that the culture here will change.

  4. What fantastic work everyone is doing. Not an easy task but more people joining will really help. Keep up the good work everyone you are doing a fabulous job

  5. What fantastic work everyone is foing not an easy task but so worth it.With more and more volunteers it will be easier. Keep up the good work! Well done!

  6. I applaud the efforts of both the Expats and Ecuadorians for their combined effort to rid this blight from our beautiful city. But, it unfortunately is only one half of the problem. Without strict laws and enforcement, the problem can never be permanently cured. I have visited major capital cities throughout Europe and every city is tainted by this vandalism. Singapore had the right idea many years ago. The punishment for littering, graffiti and the like was multiples strokes of a cane across the offenders butt. Today, Singapore doesn’t have these problems and is one of the cleanest, most beautiful cities in the world.

    1. You’re right, Ron – “permanently” is a dream but that’s not the point of our working so hard. Keep Cuenca Beautiful is a group effort, inviting everyone who loves Cuenca to join in. That includes you, and everyone who wants to take pride in the historical significance of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yes, it’s important that when I say “everyone” that includes the Mayor’s Office, and their preventing the vandals from re-tagging the areas that the Group restores. And in the meanwhile let’s keep it positive. The plan that has been shown to work is when the Group takes charge and takes care and pride of the city. It’s an ongoing maintenance issue, not a permanent “cure.” Our group doesn’t have “punishment” in its plan. Working with the City is our goal and mission. We’re all in this together.

    2. Our work plan,being as it is: a “long term commitment”, includes education programs,incentives to include the potential artists they may have inside and sort of promote them to channel their skills. If their intention is to make themselves present, that is fine, we will not “displace” them, just show them the right way. At the end, it will be a “win-win” situation for all involved, specially our Beautiful Cuenca.

    3. I asked a couple of policemen about that a few years ago. I noted that there were so many cameras around, that surely they could catch the vandals. I was told that the vandals are all smart enough to know where the cameras are, and they wear hoodies. The cameras record that someone tagged, but have no identifiable image of the tagger, and thus no proof to take to court to obtain punishment.

      I said “but the cameras are monitored 24/7.” To that, I was told that most taggers hit-and-run, and are gone long before police can reach the location. Because it has been a losing battle on that front, the police have pretty much given up, and relegated it to a “if we happen upon a vandal, we will arrest him, but we don’t dispatch to ongoing events, nor study video for clues to who the vandal might be.”

      Sad, but I can certainly understand how it got to this state. Can’t cane someone in the public square if you can’t prove who did it.

      (Yes, I know about ‘mouse’ but don’t know the specifics of his situation, which might be one of those “we all know who did it, but we have no proof for court” kind of thing?)

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