The city of Cuenca and a coalition of former graffiti artists are joining forces to wipe out graffiti.
The graffiti artists who have turned to painting what are called urban murals, say they agree that random graffiti hurts Cuenca’s appearance. Jorge Alvarez, member of the coalition of 60 to 80 muralists, says that the group will sign a pledge with the city on May 10 pledging to clean up and prevent graffiti.
Alvarez says that most of the problem is the proliferation of "tags" or “sigs” in which young men, usually aged 13 to 17, spray paint a personal identification on walls and sidewalks. “It’s ugly and we need to get the artists involved in it creating murals that don’t damage property.”
He says that the goal of his organization is to reduce the amount of graffiti in the city by 70% by the end of the year.
Cuenca councilor Juana Bersosa, who helped develop new city rules to encourage the muralist movement as a way to reduce graffiti, says she is pleased with the first step toward cleaning up the problem.
She also applauded the city for its “no graffiti allowed” policy in the newly renovated Parque de la Madre. “This is a great step and I hope it can implemented in other areas of Cuenca as well.” Graffiti that appeared in the park last Saturday night was cleaned up immediately, according to Bersosa.
Bersosa and others have also acknowledged the efforts of several Cuenca expats in controlling graffiti.
Expat John Scanlon has taken on the project of keeping his street off of 12 de Abril graffiti-free. Another expat, Alan Stiles, who has been painting over graffiti in the area below the Calle Miguel escalinata for more than two years, has been the subject of several newspaper and television stories.
Scanlon says he’s simply trying to be a good citizen. “Cuenca is my city now and I’m happy to do my part to keep it clean.” He adds: “I’ve been hearing a lot of gringos complaining lately about other gringos giving us a bad image but almost everyone that I know is involved in projects to make Cuenca better. My advice for the complainers is to get off their duffs and join their fellow expats in a good cause. I'll be happy to pass out the paint brushes.”
San Francisco Square renovation receives final OK
The plan to renovate San Francisco Plaza cleared its final hurdle on Wednesday when the Commission for Historical and Heritage officially approved the plan, six votes to one.
The commission gave city officials 120 days to prepare for beginning of construction. Dozens of vendors of clothing and household goods will need to be relocated during that period. Structures currently on the square will be demolished.
When construction is complete in about 18 months, San Francisco Square will be an open plaza with the vendors who currently occupy the area relocated to an underground commercial space. One corner of the new plaza will be set aside for artisans and the sale of medicinal plants.
Committee forming to set new taxi fares
The municipal transportation office is organizing a committee that will establish new taxi fares prior to the installation of taxi meters in July. As of Friday, only only two people had applied to be members of the committee and both were rejected due to poor scores on the admission exam.
Taxi fares in Cuenca have not been raised in 10 years but, due to the lack of meters, enforcement of rates has been almost non-existent.
A transportation ordinance requires that new fares be established before meters can be installed. The taxi drivers’ union is pushing for a substantial increase in official fares, saying that inflation has increased by more than 25% since the current schedule was set.