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In “Protest Graffiti Mexico: Oaxaca,” words and photos depict the call for social justice through the visual language of the street
February 26, 2009
Contact: Joel Samberg
New York, NY, February 3, 2009 —Shortly after major public unrest and protest violently exploded in the Mexican city of Oaxaca in 2006, journalist and economist Louis E.V. Nevaer and the late photographer Elaine Sendyk began to document the ensuing social protest graffiti movement there for a new book called “Protest Graffiti Mexico: Oaxaca,” from Mark Batty Publisher.
“The idea for this book arose both from my desire to recognize Elaine Sendyk as a gifted photographer, and to be a lasting portrayal of the emotions that drove hundreds of thousands of teachers and their supporters into the streets of Oaxaca,” said Nevaer. “For one long, hot summer, Oaxaca was brought to a standstill.”
In October 2006, Mexican state police opened fire on protestors and media outlets in Oaxaca, in the southern part of the country, killing several people. The violence and turmoil focused the world spotlight on the initial problem, which concerned local teachers demanding better pay and working conditions. The graffiti in Oaxaca, sprawling across the UNESCO World Heritage city, was designed as a way of trying achieving social justice. Executed in large part by women (in Mexico, most teachers are women), their work features themes and sentiments not typically part of graffiti movement in other parts of the world.
In the book, the story of the clash between teachers, unions, government officials and citizens is told through the reporting and historical perspectives of Nevaer. The emotions are seen and felt through the ‘social justice’ graffiti that became part of Oaxaca’s identity in 2006 and 2007, and these images that have been starkly captured by Sendyk, a photographer who has worked around the globe, and who died at age 69 shortly after finishing the photo shoot for “Protest Graffiti Mexico: Oaxaca.” At that time, the city was still tense, and it was felt that violence could erupt again at any moment.
The book combines Nevaer’s essays on the Oaxaca struggles with nearly 200 of Sendyk’s dramatic graffiti photographs, effectively demonstrating how society often seeks a visual language of its own, especially when people feel they are being ignored, oppressed, exploited and disenfranchised.
Other written contributions in the book provide additional context for the situation in Oaxaca that inspired the graffiti, including an earnest appreciation of the protestors by city native Lila Downs, an Academy Award and Grammy nominated singer and songwriter.
Nevaer, author of “Illustrations from the Inside: The Beat Within” (Mark Batty Publisher), a collection of art created by incarcerated youth, is a noted economist and a journalist who frequently covers Mexico, Cuba and American Hispanics for New America Media, the Pacific News Service and others.
“I hope this book reminds people of the struggle for social justice that remains a dream delayed in Oaxaca,” he said. “I believe it is a bold affirmation of identity, a collective historical document that gives context to the continuing struggle for democracy and social justice in Mexico.”