It’s amazing how powerful a simple idea can be. In February, I entered the city of San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico to represent Beautify Earth as an international ambassador. It was my first time in Mexico, and my first attempt to curate a mural, and all I was equipped with was this idea to “beautify earth”. Luckily, “San Cris” as the locals affectionately call this small town, is also officially recognized by the Mexican state as a Puebla Magico, or Magic Village, and indeed there’s magic in this town.
So how does a simple idea go about turning into this?
Within my 2 months of being in Mexico, I spent an entire month living in San Cristobal de las Casas. As soon as I arrived, I knew there was something special about this charming colonial town surrounded by mountains and jungle. Instead of traveling across Mexico, I decided to volunteer at Planet Hostel while living among the melting pot of indigenous locals, Spanish mestizos, and foreigners from around the world. At the hostel I met a Mexican and German tourist couple who invited me to celebrate Carnivale in nearby San Juan Chamula with them and a person they met while exploring the town. This person ended up being a Turkish-American art gallery owner named Mac, and we quickly became good friends when I shared that I also used to live in Turkey, and how we see ourselves as citizens of the world.
I met many more world citizens as time progressed. Mac invited me to paint for his exhibition B-roma, which lightheartedly parodied the pope’s upcoming visit to San Cris. Gustav, a Swedish friend I met a few weeks before while visiting the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque, came by to see the exhibition, and brought Victor, who was staying at the same hostel as him. Coincidentally, Victor had just finished painting his first ever mural at the hostel, and we both were excited to meet each other when I told him about Beautify Earth and what I was doing in Mexico.
We met again later at a live music bar called Paliacate, since a local rock band invited me there after I literally discovered them in my back yard (there was a NGO for youth arts with a music studio behind the hostel)! While grooving in Paliacate, I met another world citizen from Montreal named Flor, and by luck she also was an incredible artist with a mission to spread positivity through her artwork.
The magic started after I introduced the concept of Beautify Earth to Victor, Flor, and Mac. As the owner of the art gallery/workshop Arteria, Mac was no stranger to supporting the local community through arts. In my time there I witnessed him exhibit international artists, provide his space for art/English classes, and even host a Children’s Carnival where kids were able to paint their faces, create their own carnival masks, and watch a puppet and shadow show. Mac graciously donated his wall and all the paint necessary for Victor and Flor to help beautify San Cris.
From there incredible things happened, and instead of explaining it myself, I’ll let the artists tell their perspectives of BE:
From Victor and Flor:
“From a young age, I enjoyed drawing but it was only after quitting university have I had a real interest for expressing ideas and feelings through it. I recently started to learn and experiment painting. Although ideas for this mural came from many individuals, we all managed to work in the same direction. For my part this painting represents the consciousness that is born form nature and the essence of humans as living beings made from DNA. It shows our relationship with plants and other life forms that are born from the Earth and Sun, that seek to open their eyes to get a global consciousness.”
“Art is my life’s landscape; I feel it as a need and an answer to modern complexity. It’s all about self empowerment through giving ourselves the freedom of seeing things differently. This is my first mural but certainly not last. The creation process was collective as it’s always; in the streets people were adding laughs and stories to the one we were telling. Transform your street, your neighborhood it’s your mind’s extension. It’s all yours. :)”
So there you have it, the first #beautifyearth mural in Mexico. It started when I was inspired by BE’s working in Santa Monica, California. Then that idea moved me to bring BE to Mexico, which moved an artist from Mexican city, an artist from Montreal, and a Turkish-American gallery owner, which then brought together locals, children, and other foreigners to help beautify San Cris. Seems like we really are starting to paint a picture of a more Beautiful Earth!