A few days ago, we reviewed one of the greatest problems that the cities of this century suffer and will suffer: Gentrification. In this analysis, we learned that one of the most important factors for this phenomenon to happen is the stigmatization of the neighborhood in which this problem is going to occur. How can we destigmatize these areas of the cities to avoid making the local populations suffer? We don’t have the answer, but thanks to a recent project by a group of artists, we can see an attitude that faces this problem. This is Boa Mistura, in his joint work with the Cañada Real neighbourhood, in Madrid.
The streets of the Souls
Any space that hides between four walls and a ceiling can be a home. Hygiene and health, economy, social context, cultural context, religion… These all are contexts that can be totally different. The constant is that people live in a home. The situation that each one has lived, added to personal decisions and external pressures or coincidences, leads them along a path that can lead to a situation in which they will end up being socially marked. This brand becomes a barrier for many other people, who are unable to relate because of fear or prejudice. We have to be able to overcome that barrier, to know the soul that hides beneath the skin, just as we should never judge books, movies, or video games by their cover.
Thus, understanding that the appearance of a person does not define his or her soul, we must also understand that the appearance of a neighborhood does not define its inhabitants. In many cases, bad planning, coupled with neglect to maintain the neighborhood, leads to degradation. This laziness fosters a separation of these souls with their space, which no longer feels theirs. They stop worrying about keeping it, and this ball that is formed by degradation and stigmatization grows.
It is vital, then, to return those streets to their souls. In this project we see a great initiative – cheap, simple, and bringing people together – to bring back that feeling of “being from one place”.
La Cañada Real in Madrid is known for being a place marked by illegality. From constructions that are out of the norm, to being one of the points of sale and movement of drugs. However, this does not mean that the majority of the inhabitants of this place are engaged in this activity, nor that they want to do so.
Boa Mistura separates from the prejudices to carry out a project together with the neighborhood, in which together they will be able to return the property to its inhabitants. The idea is simple, to do what they do best: Art. Art that colors the scars of the streets, eliminates degradation, and returns the feeling of belonging to a place. To make this art, the collective immersed itself in the neighborhood, asking its inhabitants, making them participants and main actors of this activity. That’s how we get to the lyrics of a song: The Soul has no colour, by Antonio Remache.
Following this same idea of making the project of the neighborhood, so that they feel it is theirs, it will be the souls of the neighborhood who will paint the walls of the streets with bright colors, which will end up being the canvas of fragments of the lyrics of the song. In this way, Boa Mistura, and the Cañada, are able to slow down and help to de-stigmatize this area. They wash the face of these streets, and make them the ideal setting for the day-to-day life of their souls, and of visitors.
The problem, however, is far from solved. Boa Mistura has taken a step forward in helping the people who live in this troubled area, and is showing the humanity that is in the souls of this place. Perhaps the normalization and acceptance of the houses that currently make up the largest illegal settlement in Europe can be a good next step to encourage the establishment of small local businesses, rather than forcing the displacement of these souls. Restore the civic character of the neighbourhood, abandon the past as a settlement. Being human by humanizing.