By Paula Bayarte
Lima, Feb 8 (EFE).- More than 1,000 homes on Cerro San Cristobal are part of the largest urban mural in Latin America, a project that has brought hope and a sense of community spirit for one of the poorest areas of the Peruvian capital.
Known for the panoramic views offered by its vantage point overlooking the city from an altitude of 409 m (1,340 ft), San Cristobal now has people looking up from Lima’s historic core.
The mural, which covers 320,000 sq m (3.4 million sq ft) of facades in the Leticia shantytown, is a riot of colors featuring the traditional stepped, four-cornered Incan cross known as the chakana.
“I believe that the shared experience of each resident is what gives sense to everything,” the artist behind the initiative, Carla Magan, commented to Efe.
“They tell us that before, everything was gray and was dirty and that now they want to open the windows, or that the path back home from work is more beautiful,” she said.
Leticia, only a few minutes’ walk from downtown Lima, has no proper roads or public services and is covered with rudimentary houses thrown up decades ago by migrants from across Peru.
“The authorities are now realizing how important the hills are. They are neglected because they grew abruptly with no kind of technical planning and these projects serve to raise consciousness of these communities so close to the center,” resident and mural supporter Daniel Manrique said.
While paint company Qroma supplied the paint for the “Multicolor Chakanas” initiative, residents did the painting and the experience fostered unity and local pride.
“One of the things we wanted was to eradicate the stigma of feeling embarrassed about living in a neighborhood like this, known for crime, drugs and violence,” Magan said. “Kids never said they were from Cerro San Cristobal, but now with this becoming known in the press, in photos, to their own friends, they proudly say: ‘I am from the hill of colors.'”
Percy, part of the team who spent 10 months painting the mural, said that he “happy to live” in San Cristobal “now that the neighborhood is prettier and cleaner and stands out.”
Manrique sees a deeper significance to the project.
“Before the conquest Lima was occupy by millennial civilizations and in this era we want to highlight our ancestral identity,” he told Efe. EFE pbc/dr