By Sebastian Meresman
Buenos Aires, Jul 23 (EFE).- The neighborhood surrounding the cemetery where 60-year-old Diego Maradona was laid to rest after his untimely death last November has seen a flowering of street art in his honor, while the stream of visitors coming to pay their respects to the Argentine soccer icon have been a boon to local businesses.
Maradona’s remains were interred alongside those of his parents in the Bella Vista area of San Miguel, a city of more than 160,000 people 30 km (19 mi) from Buenos Aires.
Not far from the entrance to the Jardin Bella Vista cemetery is a mural depicting a young Maradona wearing the Argentina national team shirt and the captain’s armband under the legend “Here lies D10S,” a rendering of the Spanish word Dios (God) using the late striker’s number.
Adjacent streets have been decorated with more tributes.
While most of them include a likeness of Maradona, others represent him with the number 10 or an image of the World Cup trophy that Argentina won in 1986 under his leadership.
Several of the murals are the work of Bella Vista resident Damian Diaz, an artist known professionally as Damian Ferro, who told Efe that the neighborhood has experienced a “great revolution” since it became the eternal home of Maradona.
“I had little work – small paintings, T-shirts – and when Maradona came I was commissioned to do many murals,” the artist said. “Of all the places he could have been, to have him so close to my home and in the neighborhood where I live is very beautiful, but at the same time, it’s a little sad.”
“This neighborhood was not so well known. I have my mother in the same cemetery where he is, bringing Maradona provided a new start for businesses, for everything that is related to business,” Ferro said.
The artist created a Maradona mural for a barbershop near the cemetery.
“I told the owner that it would attract customers because it would be a unique place, emblematic and with an atmosphere that not all barbershops have,” he recounted to Efe.
In most cases, Ferro said, “the first thing” people who come to the cemetery to visit graves of their loved ones do is seek out the spot where Maradona lies.
The artist said that his mural of Maradona has become a focal point for the community.
“People gather on that corner and talk, there are stories and joy. There was sadness, now that mural brings joy. Everyone who passes by takes a photo. For me, that is gratifying,” Ferro said.
Two years ago, Nestor Fabian Castillo set up a sidewalk stand a few blocks from Jardin Bella Vista selling traditional Argentine strip steak that he prepares on a small grill.
The presence of Maradona “totally changed” the neighborhood, Castillo says.
“People walk by and take photos with the murals and stop to eat. It’s something more that Maradona is giving us, another bit of joy,” Castillo tells Efe.
Bella Vista resident Liliana Pezz said that as much as Maradona means to the neighborhood, the outpouring of emotion spurred by his death affected all of Argentina.
“As they say, Diego didn’t die, Diego is alive and he’s in the heart of each and every one of us, forever and ever,” she said. EFE sam-cac/dr