By Fernando Gimeno
Lima, Aug 20 (EFE).- A gigantic, multi-colored mural that, once completed, will cover an area of 320,000 square meters (3.4 million square feet) on Lima’s San Cristobal Hill is helping to liven up the ubiquitous wintertime gray of Peru’s capital.
Only visible in all its glory from a sufficient distance, this work of art featuring pink, yellow, orange, turquoise, blue, maroon and other colors is already spread across the facades of hundreds of homes perched on that hillside district overlooking the metropolis’ historic downtown.
The mural is in the shape of the iconic Chakana (pre-Columbian, stepped Andean cross), “a symbol of our history and our ancestral culture, which has long been neglected,” artist Daniel Manrique, a member of the Color Energia collective who conceived of this enormous work of art along with colleague Carla Magan, told Efe.
The work serves as a sort of counterpoint to the giant Christian cross at the summit of San Cristobal, a more than 400-meter-high (1,310-foot-high) hill that was the most venerated “apu (“mountain with a living spirit” in Quechua) in the central Lima valley.
Well-known in the area for murals that paid tribute to San Cristobal residents who died of Covid-19, Manrique said this latest work is a “dream come true” and a way for inhabitants of an area notorious for drugs and crime to get involved in a potentially transformative art project.
The project dates back three years when San Cristobal residents began painting the steep, narrow stairs between their houses in rainbow colors, a project aimed at livening up and promoting locally organized tourist visits on “apu Asharu” (the indigenous name for the hill).
But the dream of extending that same color and optimistic vibe to the entire neighborhood only became a reality after the paint company Qroma agreed to supply the necessary material, personnel and funding through its so-called Rainbow Project.
The immense challenge is now in the hands of a team of 30 people – all local residents – who under the coordination of Manrique and Magan are painting a total of 1,200 residences that are home to around 10,000 people.
In terms of size, the mural is far larger than other similar urban art initiatives in Latin America, including ones in the Chualluma neighborhood of La Paz, Bolivia, and the Las Palmitas district of Pachuca, Mexico, where 150 and 209 houses are colorfully decorated, respectively.
Painters work tirelessly in Leticia, the biggest neighborhood on San Cristobal Hill, some standing on scaffolds and others hanging from ropes several meters off the ground. Nearly all local residents are cooperating with the project, although several are reluctant to allow painters into their homes.
“It’s a daily challenge and we have fun,” while also paying attention to safety, said Manrique, who expressed confidence that the few remaining holdouts can be persuaded to allow their houses to be decorated.
Considering that most of the painters are unemployed and some even were recently let out of prison, the initiative is providing these people an opportunity to learn a new trade.
“Until now, this was a job that for them didn’t exist. But they’re learning through a colorful artistic work. They may not stay with art, but they can begin an occupation as a painter,” Manrique said.
The giant mural is expected to be completed in three months, just in time for the arrival of the Southern Hemisphere spring, when Lima will no longer be shrouded in a blanket of mist and the sun’s rays will reveal the vibrant colors of the city – including those of San Cristobal, just across the Rimac River from Lima’s old town – in all their splendor. EFE