In San Pedro Sula, Honduras, graffiti artists and activists are reclaiming their beleaguered home through the power of design.
Artist Rei Blinky is part of a new movement taking back the streets of San Pedro Sula. Image courtesy of the artist.
It’s a popular lament that graffiti artists face dangers from possible arrest to street harassment and muggings, but what about death? Recently, freelance writer Nathaniel Janowitz of Hyperallergic traveled to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, ranked the world’s deadliest city for the fourth year in a row, to shadow a collective of graffiti artists and activists as they tried to reclaim their hometown through design. The medium-sized metropolis of less than 500,000 has a staggering homicide rate of 171 per 100,000 residents—that’s three to four murders per day—which has created a climate of fear few are brave enough to challenge. “Most houses are surrounded by walls with barbwire fences,” says Janowitz. “Locals rarely linger outdoors, and the people you do see standing outside are usually security guards holding shotguns and automatic weapons protecting businesses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” In an ironic twist, graffiti artists frequently call the police in advance of their tagging to help secure protection against local gangs, many of whom associate graffiti with turf wars. “It’s difficult for street artists; the risks from the Maras are high,” said Baruch, a San Pedrano street artist, in reference to one of the area’s most feared gangs.