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Want to do something about graffiti in Cuenca? This is not the way to do it

Cuenca street art.

I recently read a call to arms to fight graffiti in Gringo Post and decided to attend the event to get a better understanding of the issues plaguing gringos. The advertisement went like this:

If you are tired of the tagging (not the beautiful murals) you are seeing on walls, columns, and storefronts on almost every street and want to help, then we need you.

We have set an open meeting time and date to explain the plan, answer questions and sign-up volunteers. Again, if you are frustrated with what you are seeing around our beautiful city then take the time and join us.

Kevin Donnelly: 760 889 7600 WhatsApp. Call after: 8 AM.

A volunteer at a graffiti paint-over party last year.

Donnelly, a two-months-long resident in Ecuador from California, has set an ambitious goal for himself, and for the landscape of Cuenca. He will be happy with nothing less than the near-total elimination of graffiti throughout the city. His credentials are impressive. In his presentation he spoke of his success in eliminating graffiti in two places I am familiar with: Lake Arrowhead and Ventura, California.

The presentation began in fits and starts but soon enough, Donnelly got to the central theme of his plan — to establish a series of punitive tools that will identify and arrest teenage offenders.

It is unfortunate that a well-meaning man centers so much of his attention on the crime and punishment aspect of the graffiti problem instead of pursuing a holistic solution that considers why the kids are tagging in the first place. The intro was disappointing, verging on disturbing, to say the least.

Another volunteer.

Donnelly crowed: “I have access to a database that, once we collect enough information to identify the criminals defacing our city, we are going to capture them and then we are going to punish them.”

The crowd was fired up.

A woman sprang to her feet to say that tagging is very serious vandalism, it is the destruction of private property and should be considered a major crime.

Now, I  know property rights deserve attention but insisting that graffiti painted on a wall by a 15-year-old is a major crime, like murder or rape, seems a bit extreme to me. But then, I was clearly in the minority.

There was another “leg” on Donnelly’s “stool guaranteed to achieve success” that shocked me and thrilled members of the crowd.  A plan is being hatched to strap children with a debt far beyond, in most cases, their ability to pay. How cruel.

Folks who think that the police will aggressively enforce a $50 fine on some twelve- and thirteen-year-old kids for writing on a wall are simply out of touch with the local dynamics, not to mention Ecuador’s penal code. Will the city support charging the kid’s parents — who make $500 a month —  30% of their monthly wages for three scribbles on a wall?

Of course not.

Graffiti with a message on an El Centro wall.

In fact, folks in the crowd vehemently insisted that time and again they saw, with their own eyes, police officers ignoring a tagger. Call it what you will but I think it is simply a combination of an understanding the culture of the folks they are charged to protect plus a healthy dose of compassion.

Donnelly’s misguided approach is predicated on the standard that everything is rightfully monetized and weaponized, and that individual expression  — whatever it is —  if deemed unsatisfactory by a committee, is deserving of financial strain, and punitive measures, up to and including incarceration.

One person hollered, “Mouse! He is tagging everything! We need to catch him and put him away in jail! He is a criminal!” Others shook their heads in agreement.

I did not.

This aggressive posture to confront a serious problem does not reflect centuries-old Ecuadorian culture, particularly as it relates to the arts and artists. Our culture insists on large doses of tolerance, and acceptance. And as a result, harshly punishing children is frowned upon by the general population as being uncivilized even if it is not in other places.

I am well aware that tagging can be an irritating eyesore — and that solutions need to be found. But, I heard not a single thoughtful plan to divert teens’ attention or detailed consideration of why they tag in the first place and what plans might be devised to divert their energies. The notion of leaving that work to others — the police and the courts, in this case — is akin to building a house without giving thought to the foundation, or the materials needed to support growth in turbulent times.

It isn’t enough to punish children because — shock, shock — they grow up. Teaching art appreciation and caring for one’s community will produce far better long-term results than administering the scab of a criminal record, or the crush of teenage debt.

130 thoughts on “Want to do something about graffiti in Cuenca? This is not the way to do it

  1. I wasn’t at the meeting but talked to a friend who was and agree with Robert that the organizer has the plan backward. First, you get the gringos out there on the street to paint over the mess — instead of bitching about a problem, actually do something about it. Second, come up with a program to give the kids an alternative to tagging (this has been done successfully in other cities). Third, I believe there should be some penalty for tagging, such as making the kids clean up their mess if they’re caught. But Robert is correct, the city and police won’t do anything about the problem even if they say they will. I look forward to seeing Mr. Donnelly leading dedicated groups of expat painters to attack the problem head-on. Walk the talk!!

      1. Gigi – This has been suggested. These products are not currently available in Ecuador and the importing of these coatings is difficult because they are considered hazardous materials. Join the Facebook group Keep Cuenca Beautiful for more information and to join the discussion.

      1. Agree.
        Success comes from eliminating the graffiti within 48 hours.
        Not once every two years with non-matching paint.
        That non-matching paint cover-up by the city is what one local mural artist termed “Municipal Graffiti”

        1. Painted over graffiti is a new canvas for the next tagger. It’s not hard to catch them because that’s where there are going to go.

  2. Robert ..I totally agree with you but please please let’s make sure not to paint over “mouse guy” I love him. Good place to start however is getting rid of the (proverb) 4:20 tags everywhere and Jesus is Lord stuff everywhere. Also let’s keep the occasional anti government stuff ,I love that too !

      1. Sorry Ken but there is always room in my heart for the occasional anarchist especially when his mice are detonating …

      2. Before ya know it the city will have a Gap and a Starbucks on every corner ! What committee is going to decide what is “good” graffiti ,art, murals,or BAD ????

        1. There is an obvious and distinct difference between – Murals and Tagging on private and public property and churches.
          And DAZA Diego Zambrano is far from “Occasional”
          There are better outlets for the message of the anarchist than the front wall of my home.
          Muralists are invited. Taggers never are.
          Invite DAZA to spray his occasional anarchist graffiti on your home first. Be an example – display his vibrant societal “art” on your own home.

        2. Thanks Paul, Yes, what committee? This is the vital question in this city adopted by so many gringitos. How precious will this city become? Who are the DECIDERS? FB postings? Gimme a break…

    1. 420 or 4:20 is just a reference to April 20, Weed Day, when pot smokers around the world annually celebrate the cannabis culture. Not a biblical reference.

    2. I don’t see a thing to admire about the mouse. He is a narcissist in the same vein as Donald Trump. They both go around tagging because they love to see their name/tag in front of the public. They crave attention. He must be a shallow guy.

      1. Yeah, there ya go! You should really get some help for your Trump Derangement Syndrome. Based on the fractured mess the Dems are in, DJT is going to be around for awhile. No point in suffering long term.

        1. As I have said many times, trump derangement syndrome is when trump supporters insist that trump isn’t a pathological liar. Those people are deranged.

            1. You’re clearly confused. We know that trump is a narcissist and a pathological liar and it is only you deranged people that don’t believe that, that are in need of therapy.

              1. QED The facts go further than you suggest.

                Trump is not the problem. He is merely a severely damaged human. I feel sorry for him and those he comes into contact with.
                The most scaryl element is that he precisely reflects the America. Every adjective applied to Trump’s illnesses can be more poignantly and accurately be applied to American culture.

                1. You always go too pathetically far. More than half the American public hates trump and all he stands for. You make an ass out of yourself with your ridiculous generalities.

              2. Well OK, if you say so, but my guess is that you’re setting yourself up for another meltdown next year. Get ready.

                1. Right, we should all pretend that trump isn’t underwater in every poll out there and that all 5 of the top democrat challengers aren’t ahead of trump in those polls, too, including Biden who is a whopping 15 percentage points ahead of trump.

                  trump has recently gone underwater in the one area where he had some hope, and that was the economy. That will only be exacerbated if the country slips into recession and based on trumps utterly stupid tariffs and profligate spending, that is a great possibility.

                  Do tell me what true conservative (like me) presides over trillion dollar budget deficits (like trump) Add that to the fact that trump lied about even that, saying he would balance the budget in his first term, and I don’t see much hope for trump.

    3. Poor Paul. You are so unhappy if someone tags a message you don’t agree with like the Bible or love for your fellow man. We must work to have you approve all graffiti prior to application since we mustn’t offend you.

    4. typical anti-religious from you. you think grafitti is cool as long as it doesn’t lift someone’s spirits

  3. Is this another bunch of gringos with to much time on their hands trying to change the culture in Cuenca because it is different from “back home” ? This guy has been here two months and wants to change the culture, excuse my, you moved here why ? Are Cuencano’s involved in this effort?

    I do not like the tagging either, but it happens in Cuenca and in NYC and beyond. I have to agree the macho approach will only stir the pot especially in Cuenca. However I have no objection to painting over them if the city agrees, after all it is mostly private property where tags occur.

    1. Hey Bill, that is exactly the plan that was discussed – And if you join the Facebook group you’ll see that there are many Cuencanos who have joined. It’s not just Gringos. Kevin has visited Cuenca many times, and now has decided to live here – he’s not just a “two month” resident. I won’t speak for him, he’s working hard to meet with the people in the City who can assist this very workable program.

    2. Bill – you were not at the meeting. It’s easy to criticize from Vermont.
      We have secured the city’s blessing . . . that is a big damn deal right there.

      “However I have no objection to painting over them . . .”
      That is pretty much the entirety of the plan.

      I have a brush with your name on it when you and your lovely wife arrive to live in Cuenca full time next month.

      & Yes – Cuencano’s are involved – The City is involved – If you join Keep Cuenca Beautiful on FB you’ll see the names of many interested locals.

      If someone tagged your picket fence and all of your neighbor’s picket fences in VT last night . . . how would you react? What would you do? How would you feel? Or just go out now and tag your picket fence yourself with your favorite message du jour. Get ahead of the taggers.

      If this doesn’t work – you can say “I told you so.”
      But give it a chance.

    3. I have been an Ecuadorian citizen for more than 30 years. I always get a bit irritated when I see newbies like yourself and Mr. Bradley using the “It’s their country” excuse to rationalize bad aspects of our culture here. Some things like abuse of women, vigilante justice and driving drunk—– and yes, graffiti———- merit being spoken out against and eliminated.


      Alice Davis

    4. No, this seems like a group of concerned residents that are willing to spend their valuable time doing something good for the city.

      Some aspects of this culture need to be changed. Want a list?

      1. I stand corrected, I hope. We shall see though, like the big uproar about drivers speeding down Lasso a year or so ago. I am in favor of this, I guess I just have my doubts. One thing I do not quite get is why the property owners themselves do not fix (paint over graffiti) on their own properties. I have done so at my house. And to be honest I would not want someone, anyone, painting the front wall of my house.

        1. While you and I feel the same about painting graffiti on our own property (and why the Cuencanos don’t) all I can do is speculate that it is because they see it as a futile effort.

  4. I think Kevin is working hard to find a solution. I wasn’t at the meeting, but I’ve heard that there are others in town who are more vocal about the punishment of vandals which is a distraction. The city is responsible for enforcing their own laws, and the intention is to “Keep Cuenca Beautiful” by stopping vandals from tagging public and private property. I’ve met with Kevin a number of times, and the intention is NOT to “arrest and jail offenders” but the intention is to empower people who live in the city to legally take “ownership” of their “territory” (which Kevin has a workable plan for) and have paint and equipment available to properly cover up the tagging on churches, businesses, public spaces, tourist signs, everywhere. TAGGING is vandalism. For those who want to be a part of the project and get involved, please join the Facebook group Keep Cuenca Beautiful.

  5. These Gringo Plans drive me crazy. This is Ecuador and not the USA. Go back to the USA and fix it. Who is all this really hurting and what makes you think someone from a country that is falling apart has all the solutions. Leave Cuenca alone.. no Ecuadorian is losing sleep over graffiti. Find a real purpose like helping the homeless, rescue animals or better yet help educate Gringos how to be a polite guest in a foreign country. If you don’t like Cuenca leave it and leave it alone.

    1. I have to laugh when people say graffiti is Ecuadorian culture, so leave it alone. It is not part of the culture here. It is a recent phenomenon and they are imitating what they see in movies and on TV of places like NYC and LA. Maybe a Cuencano on here can tell us the history of this stuff.

      Moreover, it is hurting Cuencanos. It tarnishes the image of the city for tourism. You don’t see this stuff in Amsterdam or Munich.

    2. “no Ecuadorian is losing sleep over graffiti” — then you must not know very many Cuencanos. I can assure you that most of those I know also detest the tagging. They just don’t think they can do anything about it.

      I was not at the meeting, and this is the first I have heard of the “jail ’em” aspect. I totally agree with the elimination of the tags, and can attest that no jail time was required to mostly eradicate the tagging in Oakland 20 years ago when my wife worked on a project to remove it there. Just paint it over quick, and the incentive to do the tagging trails off.

    3. You don’t have a clue. Cuencanos, for the most part, hate graffiti as much as anyone else.

      How did you get so out of touch?

    4. Your existence in Cuenca as a “guest” coincides well with someone who is drawn to the insipidity that only one can only derive from being a “volunteer” at a Gringo forum or a being a facilitator of visas for gringos who are too lazy to do the work themselves or don’t want to pay an Ecuadorian.

        1. Oh, so you are not a guest since your cédula says “ciudadana”, but the expats you deal with in that vacuous expat bubble you thrive in are in fact guests, and should behave accordingly?

  6. Did anyone else that actually attended the meeting feel the same message?
    That Kevin Donnelley’s central theme of his plan was: — “to establish a series of punitive tools that will identify and arrest teenage offenders”?

    I attended a couple of meetings with Kevin prior to this public meeting and that is absolutely not the message I heard. (Let’s leave the meeting audience comments aside)
    The plan – one that has been successful in the past in other areas – was to use volunteers to regularly monitor a one-block area and to color-match and cover or clean graffiti within 48 hours – radiating out from the city center as more funding and volunteers are available – with the blessing of the City Government Leaders that Kevin diligently secured.
    It’s a good plan. It is not a “Gringo Project” – it is a “Community Project”.
    Nobody every mentioned harshly punishing children or anyone else in the early planning meetings I attended.
    Let the police do the policing if graffiti is on their list of priorities for this UNESCO World Heritage City.

    I’m with Kevin – And I have already signed on as one of his volunteers. I am not someone sitting at their computer with no positive alternative plan.
    My paintbrushes are ready to rock! I’ll send you photos so you can see them on your computer.

    Please join the Facebook group Keep Cuenca Beautiful – and become part of the solution.

    Ken March

    1. Da Za is a role model for the kids. They are probably admiring and emulating him. Getting him to stop tagging may go a long way toward solving the problem.

      1. If this guy and his criminal behavior (yes, vandalism is criminal) are so well known, why haven’t the police arrested him?

  7. Tagging in the US is generally gang related, as in territories stacked out…Who can sell what and where is the underlying message…

  8. I’ve been stopped by two police officers in the last five years.

    (1) Port Angeles, WA, where an officer armed with an assault rifle was standing outside my apartment. Someone had “heard” what they thought “might have been” a gun shot one morning. While on my morning walk, streets and alleys in my neighborhood were barricaded, police were stationed everywhere, and I had a bit of trouble getting back home.

    (2) Cuenca, Ecuador, where an officer stopped me on a Sunday morning as I was beginning a walk, and asked me if I knew what time it was.

    There is a whole difference in cultures, which, besides the weather, is a reason why I live here. If a little scribbling is the visual price, well, I don’t like it, but I do enjoy how people here do not begin thinking violent thoughts whenever they encounter the least little bit of annoyance.

    I’ve wondered how things would go if a bunch of people with money, say gringos for example, bought or sponsored a wall which would be open to either commissioned or competitive mural work, with the best work left up for 30 days or 60 days, maybe even including a prize. Put a fence in front to keep out vandalizing spraypainters, and show the little ones what they could accomplish if they work on their skillz instead of randomly firing paint at the nearest wall.

    Solution B: Something like this: “Public urination is common in many cities, but Hamburg in Germany has had enough and is fighting back with science. The local communities have used a super-hydrophobic paint which is powerful enough to push water molecules away, meaning that when people urinate on walls, it rebounds right back.” At

    There are other stories on this. A search on “german bars wall urination paint” will get you lots of hits. More intelligent I think than repression.

  9. What is really revealing about the government is that it is widely known who “the mouse” is, but still nothing is done to stop him.

  10. I attended the meeting, found the plan plausible, but also felt that efforts directed at positive behavioral change might be an accompaning approach. An alternative choice to a $50 fine might be community service whereby the tagger would assist in and receive credit for helping to remove tagging. Robert Bradley’s idea of enrolling them in community arts programs is another. Diego, the mouse guy, perhaps could be enlisted in finding a creative solution. I don’t have an answer, but experimentation with more than one solution might be advisable. I’d be glad to join others in pursuing good, workable ideas and acting on them.

    1. “the tagger would assist in and receive credit for helping to remove tagging.”- This has been done here, it worked and it was dropped for some unknown reason. Same with the jail inmates removing graffiti and also dropped!?!?!

    2. I wholeheartedly agree with your multi pronged approach, but I don’t disagree with a punitive aspect of that approach either.

  11. Young artists love competitions – I would suggest setting aside certain places for the young people to do their art in the city, and publicize an art competition with a substantial cash prize for the winner. Maybe local artists could mentor and give guidance to these young people to paint their entries. These young people who paint graffiti are sending a message to society in the only way they can – yes, many times it’s negative and an eyesore, and isn’t it the truth that society has that within it? Instead of punishing and condemning them, why not encourage them to express themselves, speak with them about their art, and give them proper instruction to become better artists. Thank you, Robert, as always, for your insights – perhaps you could be the photographer for such a competition?

  12. Seattle, WA, had a program to encourage young graffitists to paint murals on public walls, bus stops, etc., rather than tagging. Might that work in Cuenca?

    1. Hi Bobette, there’s been a lot of discussion about this topic and possible ways to help kids who have artistic interests find more support in Cuenca for making murals on the Facebook group Keeping Cuenca Beautiful. Join the Facebook Group Keeping Cuenca Beautiful for more discussion.

    2. I like the underlying notion, but sadly, taggers aren’t artists and you wouldn’t want to have them put their ugly “art” on a wall near you. That is to say, they are incapable of creating the beauty that I think we can agree on.

  13. Poor gringos! The graffiti disturbs their sensibilities. They like their walls pristine. Well this gringo is from New York City and Oakland, CA, and the graffiti makes me feel right at home. What people are really saying in their anti-graffiti comments is that they don’t like seeing signs of of the culture of working class and poor people. They want this particular form of expression to disappear. Just as they want the poor to disappear. I’m not arguing in favor of tagging, but there are reasons for this form of cultural expression. Apparently, many gringos have no interest in knowing anything about that. They just want clean walls.

    1. jnack – I believe you are arguing in favor of tagging.
      Did you ever have your own property or door tagged. Did you like this “particular form of expression” on your home that was part of a UNESCO World Heritage city? Did you agree with the tagger’s ‘cultural expression’ on your front door? Apparently, you did, and it made you feel ‘right at home’ ?

    2. No, what we want is socialists like yourself to respect ALL private property. Anything put on MY wall without MY permission is vandalism, pure and simple.

    3. “What people are really saying in their anti-graffiti comments is that they don’t like seeing signs of of the culture of working class and poor people”

      This is pure BS and an incredible stretch for you trying to promote your usual socialist ideas.

      What anti-taggers are really trying to say with their comments is that tagging is vandalism and that we are upset over ANYONE not respecting private property.

    4. Ah, so now you are a badass from Oakland instead of the Chávez loving liberal from San Francisco? That figures.

      1. Why make assumptions about someone you don’t know? When one makes assumptions, one takes the risk of appearing an ass when one’s assumptions prove to be wrong. And your assumptions about me are wrong. Do not pretend that you know me and how I think. If you want to know, you can ask. If you don’t want to know, don’t make things up about me.

        1. This is the most pathetic defense I’ve ever seen. For God’s sake, man, we all know you by what you post on various forums and Swami seems to have easily spotted you for what you are.

  14. As a retired police officer I agree with most. The best way to stop the graffiti is to stop selling spray paint to minors. Limit the sale to those 21 and up. Secondly, taggers should be issued a summons to appear in court. If a juvenile, then they appear with their parents. The Magistrate can issue a fine, if it’s a juvenile the parents are held responsible. That usually nips it in the butt. Finally community service time issued with the time spent cleaning up the graffiti. This worked well in my community.

  15. Those of us of a certain age group need to be careful that we attempt to understand things from the viewpoint of our younger people. Behaving like politically incorrect old fogies is no way to solve this problem, and give young people a safe haven for discussion, as well as an artistic and social outlet in which to allow expression. And this is not a liberal idea. Keep Cuenca Beautiful, and Let’s All Learn to Live in Cuenca Together and in Harmony!

  16. A comment to me from a friend who attended the meeting:

    Agree! I attended the meeting. As I understand it the Mayor has signed off on the program, and a letter from the mayor will be placed under the door of every shopkeeper in El Centro to explain the program. The Cultural Directors only question was “when can you start?” The city is providing the paints and a storage area. There were several Cuencanos in the audience. The difference between murals (which everyone loves) and tagging is pretty obvious. If there is any punitive element to it – that will be up to the City, certainly not gringo Expats. There is a plan to have an important Education element. To state that there was a “vigilante” element is wrong and inflammatory.

  17. What’s is most important UNESCO has warned Cuenca if they do not clean up the graffiti (tagging) in El Centro they will lose their “heritage status”..(article in this paper few months ago)…It could be a huge problem for Cuenca…

  18. I read Robert Bradley’s article with great interest because I am offended by the graffiti in our beautiful city. All I found in this article was Bradley’s sanctimonious criticism of Kevin Donnelly’s plan for ridding the city of the scourge of graffiti, yet Bradley didn’t offer a single concrete suggestion to address the problem himself.

    Further, I find Bradley’s defense of the “culture” of tagging based on some sort of vague, historical precedent of tolerance to be a disingenuous pretext and quite a stretch. I get tired of newcomers like Bradley foisting the “It’s their Country” defense for every odious practice that this society accepts.

    To give a few examples of disgusting practices that Ecuadorian culture has been tolerant of over the years, all you have to do is look at the current culture of machismo that inflicts widespread and deep pain on women in this society. Robert, machismo is part of this culture. Should we remain silent when we see a man abusing his wife or girlfriend, or should we punish the man AND seek to change the culture that you are using as a shield for the status quo regarding graffiti? How about with the old practice of caterwauling? How about lynching and vigilante justice?

    I didn’t attend the meeting that Mr. Bradley refers to, but if his account of some of the proposals that Mr. Donnelly suggests is accurate, I’m for every one of them. Donnelly’s proposals may not end graffiti here, but if they do something to eliminate it even a little, I’m all for them.


    Alice Davis

    1. Bradley seems to mean well, but I agree, he’s awfully thin on specific constructive ways to address the issue of graffiti. Platitudes and generalities won’t cut it.

        1. I’m all for anything that would even begin to reduce graffiti. Let’s not let perfect be the enemy of good.

  19. Another comment made on the Keep Cuenca Beautiful FB Group:

    “I think Mr. Bradly took the meaning of meeting out of proportion. He didn’t help Donnelley’s with an initiative that is an excellent plan for the benefit of Cuenca. He is creating a controversy for his own satisfaction. Donnelly was very kind to share the plans with us and he deserves support. This is not a gringo only plan, it will be a Cuencanos project also. When something is wrong, it needs to be fixed and the government of Cuenca supports the plan.”

    1. I agree with that commenters comments, but for clarity, you should put them within quotation marks to show that they are not your words. I know you say that with your lead sentence, but it is still the proper thing to do.

        1. Um, hardly an English major, but somewhat of a grammarian and certainly a curmudgeon.

          Kudos to you for taking constructive criticism and actually making the required change.

  20. Many thanks Robert Bradley. I enjoyed reading your essay.
    And kudos to the comment writers you made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

  21. Good thinking Robert. I suggest if a graffiti is disturbing someone’s eyesight they contact the owner of the property and ask permission to paint over the eyesore. If the owner approves they should take on the task of painting over the offending problem. Otherwise, we are visitors no matter what our visa says. Let the Ecuadorians solve the issue.

    1. Visitors my ass. I’m an Ecuadorian citizen. If you’re only a visitor, when will you be returning to wherever it is you came from? Visitors don’t stay forever.

    2. “Let the Ecuadorians solve the issue”

      JaJaJaJa. That is hysterical Bill considering you are the guy who wrote an article for Cuencahighlife in 2016 which listed 10 ideas that could be “developed jointly by
      the government and the expat community, and could enrich the nation economically and

      Is there no place in your mind for a joint effort by expats and government to tackle the problem of graffiti in Cuenca now? Has your opinion changed about the expat community changed since then?

      You were also the guy who wrote a comment a couple of years ago that said: “Unless you have your citizenship I suggest expats stay out of this situation. This is an Ecuadorian problem and should be solved by them.”

      I can’t help but wonder whether you butted out of Ecuadorian politics by refraining from voting, or whether like most expats, you wanted to brag about having done so to your peers at the gringo cafe or on Facebook.

    3. I’m with Donald Devin on this. When do we get considered to be part of the community here that can take part in solving problems?

  22. It is not at all correct for Mr Bradley to placeprimary emphasis. punitive measures for taggers, especially for young children, as being the main theme fibre meeting. Many of those present, I being one of them , specifically emphasized the need for education of the consequences of the vandalism of our city. Education would hopefully include schools, churches, parents, homeowners, business operators etc.

    If anger and frustration are motivators of the boldness of the vandalism, let us yes, cleanup the tagging, but also attend to instilling pride, cultural awareness, and community spirit in these taggers as alternatives to anger. The database would not serve as a tool to identify “criminal s”, but rather as a way to identify those who might benefit from assistance. And yes they could help clean up the mess they made and be introduced to the honorable trade of painting buildings, if not creating art.

    Perhaps muralists or graffiti artists, like Topher and Mouse could teach some basic techniques; perhaps there are other budding artists among the taggers who just need ecouragement and instruction.

  23. I was at the same meeting as Mr Bradley but came away with an entirely different interpretation of the intent. Kevin clearly said several times that the focus of the plan is to return the buildings to the original colors and monitor the area every 48 hours to remove any new tags. He emphasized that any punishment would be the responsibility of the police, not the teams. The Cuencanos in the meeting were 100% in agreement with the plan. In fact, one immediately volunteered to be one of the translators. Another said that this needs to be a community project of Cuencanos and gringos. Everyone was incomplete agreement. Punishment was NOT the major focus, the plan’s operation was.

  24. I will admit that I have no positive reaction to Mr. Bradley’s pretty biased view of what I see and hear in the community related to working WITH the community to address the problem and the related issues. Understand that biases in thinking filter information, and that it seems that biased thinking is really coloring the perceptions of the author.

    My other guess is that Mr. Bradley’s property is not one that is being tagged and that he does not apparently see a lot of tagging as he walks around. Or if he did, he can somehow consider it insignificant. I just walked along the river downtown this afternoon and it is pretty distressing how much of that exists in places that only a walker would view.

    Instead of ranting about the punishments, why not understand that punishment is a really poor choice of approaches to influence behavior. It is good at only STOPPING a behavior, and only for a short period of time. It also generates divergent negative behaviors. Most of us understand that this is NOT the solution to the problem for the long term.

    Behavior is influenced by the “Balance of Consequences” as perceived by the performer. The positive recognition perceived as coming from tagging can be countered by a community that shows an interest in dealing with this in an effective way. If we address the “why” that operates, we can begin to decrease the tagging.

    Let’s offer some really good alternatives and get these taggers to see that they can get recognition in other ways. Let’s do some things to include them in the conversation. This is NOT a “Gringo Thing” but there are some non-Ecuadorians interested in working with the community to make a positive impact on this problem.

    Let’s eliminate the sensationalism underlying this particular view of the approaches proposed to deal with these issues.

  25. I believe that we should not infringe on Ecuadorian society and their way of expressing themselves. We, (Gringos) are visitors to their land and home. If you don’t like the Graffiti go back where you came from! Go to New York City sometime, you will see graffiti that’s loaded with cusswords.

    1. BS. Pure BS. Anybody that is here legally with a valid visa or who is an actual citizen of Ecuador is NOT a guest. If you want to consider yourself a guest, tell me when you’ll be leaving and I’ll see you off at the airport.

      Good “guests” never overstay their welcome. Guests eventually go “home”.

  26. WAIT — I have read and re-read and then re-re-read the article and, if there is a positive suggestion about what we might choose to do to improve this, I missed it.

    Hell, I can rant and rave about most things (and I DID start a Facebook page called Cranky Expats of Cuenca for that purpose,) but please help me understand what the author would have us expats and Cuencanos actually do.

    If the perceived (and apparently inaccurate) perceptions of the meeting are NOT “the way to do it,” would it not have been a better approach to purport some WAY to do it? I am tired of the “no way” kind of thinking of many people who think everything is just peachy as it is.

  27. Walk the talk is right. How naive the whole crowd that the meeting, if they think the problem will be solved through anger and hate.

    Study how NYC cleaned up its subways decades ago. It wasn’t through fining and jailing the perpetrators.

  28. Good luck to the gringos in their anti-graffiti crusade. They are going to need it. Graffiti is a global phenomenon. It is an expression by those who feel excluded and looked down upon by society. This is not a phenomenon that can be whitewashed away, or guilt tripped away. Scorning those who tag actually reinforces their alienation from society. If these simplistic solutions worked, graffiti would have been wiped out a long time ago.

  29. Expats represent about 1% of the population of Cuenca, it is definitely not “our city” as this gentleman states. If Cuencanos are concerned about this issue they can vote in a government that will address it. Until then let’s stop trying to impose our values on their culture.

    1. What if OUR values are concordant with THEIR values?
      When do WE become THEY? In other words, when do you stop considering yourself a guest here and become part of the community?

      I’ve been here for decades and am a citizen (not just a legal resident) Am I okay to opine in your book?

  30. When “kids” tagged the walls of homes on our street, (we were the only gringos in our neighborhood), we spoke with our neighbors. The majority of spray painted BS was visible from our house, so we asked for their permission to repaint the walls of their homes, etc.. We matched the color of the wall and in a few days and with some help..we had everything covered. Then the “kids” struck gain! And again we repainted. Our neighbors not only helped with the work, but invited us for dinners, bought us small gifts to show their appreciation and became good friends. The tagging stopped…as we all watched out for each other and started a neighborhood association to help prevent this kind of destruction.

  31. Why the graffiti (tagging) has to be eradicated especially in ElCentro, UNESCO has threatened Cuenca that if the problem is not solved Cuenca will lose it’s “heritage status”…

  32. How about have the caught graffiti painters take a class on Cuencano art and civic care, and then as a group come up with some of their own art. And then paint over graffiti with their art.

  33. just wondering. how many taggers are expats or children of expats or relatives of expats or friends of expats or children of friends of expats …

  34. I’ll give you a solution. Be more humble and educate yourself.
    You people sound like a righteous mob of arrogant clueless neocolonialists ready to repeat the mistakes of the past. with the chant “Whats mine is mine and whats yours is mine”
    is there even a cultural anthropologist in your ranks.maybe you would understand that private property is not a god given right.
    graffiti, tagging at its core is a rebellion against your “ownership” of the land.
    In the good old USA certain groups have become “WOKE” and it’s coming to quaint Cuenca

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