The warnings were plenty. Concerned family members and friends constantly emphasizing to “never walk alone and be careful with the camera”. After all, not even the cops dare to go in to one of the most feared neighborhoods in the country. But what nobody warned me about, is what actually happened. I was about to witness a community’s curiosity for street art and a sense of unity and belonging.
Streets of Castilla.
El Callao, view from the 6th floor of La Casa Ronald. Mural by Entes & Pesimo.
The organizers of the Festival Latido Americano, better known as Entes & Pesimo, had decided that this year the festival will take place at El Centro Historico del Callao; specifically at a neighborhood called Castilla. Due to the amount of violent crimes that take place in the area, it had been declared in a state of emergency by the authorities. Nevertheless, things are changing; as initiatives like the Fugaz Project attempt to transform the Callao Monumental into an example of how investing in arts and culture can break any barriers.
Sipion beginning his mural.
Part of the Latido Americano crew.
I arrived at the Castilla neighborhood located in the Callao maritime port a few days after the fourth edition of the Latido Americano Festival had officially started. Most of the walls were already in progress and a mix of about 20 local and international artists were working on their murals.
The amount of kids roaming the streets really caught my attention, as they constantly offered their help to the artists and played among themselves. We were only a few blocks away from the Pacific Ocean, so they would go for a swim every 30 minutes; after all, the summer days were almost over and soon enough they would be back in school.
It is usually the case in street art festivals that take place in distressed neighborhoods, that the community fully embraces the process of beautification; and El Callao was no exception. The locals were curious, grateful and full of praises; constantly asking about the significance of the work being produced. And while there is still a lot to do, every year more artists join the cause of the founders of the festival; in an effort to reclaim the Barrio Monumental del Callao.
And as the bespoken negativity dissolved while carelessly submerging myself into the neighborhood; I realized that my homecoming couldn’t have come at a better time or in a better place. It was my time to walk the streets and learn from them. A chance to witness the history of a neighborhood that was always in close proximity to where I grew up, but had never showed itself to me the way it did this time around.