On the 26th of May two minors were caught painting graffiti on the side of one of the government’s 1.27 million dollar train carriages. A press conference was held were it was stated that the parents of these two minors would be held responsible for the damage.
The Minister for the Interior and Transport, Florencio Randazzo made some incendiary remarks during a radio interview, in which he said that the the two young graffiti writers “need to be killed, this makes you want to kill them, how can they be so evil? If any kid of mine painted a train, do you know how I would beat his ass for being such an idiot?”
Speaking as a representative of a government which has modeled itself on tolerance, the minister’s remarks were unfortunate. Security Minister Sergio Berni quickly tried to dismiss his remarks, assuring the nation that the comments had been made through “fury and impotence at what had happened” and of course this “it is not what he thinks, and not what we in the government think.
The mayor of Buenos Aires Mauricio Macri jumped on the bandwagon, and said that anyone caught painting graffiti on the subte will be forced to remove it. Macri’s position on graffiti is interesting. His administration has organized the first international graffiti festival in Buenos Aires, whilst simultaneously assembling an anti-graffiti task force, charged with removing graffiti from national and religious buildings. He is also arguably one of the worst culprits of graffiti in the city.
Politicians have used public space for propaganda and promotion since the 1950’s. Whilst the practice of painting propaganda on public and private property is just as illegal as the graffiti painted on these trains, it is largely accepted as a feature of the urban landscape – and most importantly, it is paid for the very same political parties who decry the “vandalism” of public property.
Early graffiti writers in New York chose to paint trains because the trains enabled their work to travel the city and be seen everywhere. The practice of painting trains first took off in Buenos Aires in the 90s, but had died down until a sudden resurgence in recent years. The sight of these new trains covered with graffiti has provoked fury. The view from inside the trains makes an interesting contrast though. If you take a train ride anywhere in Buenos Aires and look out of the window, you’ll see the names of every political party, candidate and union leader looking to promote themselves splashed across the walls of the city.
Political painters and graffiti writers both paint public and private property without permission. Both write in colourful block letters. The original graffiti writers in Argentina are the politicians, and they are still the most prolific.
(Ana Laura Montenegro)