Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Expanding the scope

As some of my regular readers may have picked up on by now, recently I've endeavored to take what began as a haphazardly updated travel blog and publish on a regular, monthly basis.  After about a year of consistently managing to publish that often, I've decided I've got it in me to begin writing twice a month.  At the end of every month, I'll keep writing longer pieces, with the same narrative focus on places we've been and interesting things we've seen and experienced.  Around the middle of each month, I'll be adding a new sort of feature, probably much shorter.  With these, I hope to share some more personal insights into living in Latin America.  These might be general reflections, some actual experiences out in the city, or, as is the case for our debut feature today, a review of some creative product of Latin American culture.

Here in Cuenca, I've got the privilege of being able to stay home every day with my daughter in the mornings, while my wife goes to work.  She comes home for a lunch that I've prepared, we catch up for a short time while we share our meal, and then I go to work in the afternoon.  I come home to dinner prepared by her, we enjoy our evening together.  And, with some interesting variations here and there, so it goes with our quotidian life.

And, while our daughter is still young and not walking around and getting into everything yet, I find myself with the time to pursue lots of hobbies around the house.  Writing, reading, studying and playing music.  And also, on many mornings, goofing around for hours on the internet.  Over the course of the past several months, I've stumbled upon lots of websites I enjoy, and quite a few that emerge from all over Latin America.

Like Arte Callejero.  Here you can find loads of graffiti from the streets of cities around Latin America and other parts of the world.  At the bottom of the page you've got an itemized list of cities, artists and graffiti styles, which assembles an instant collection from the website in one click.  Having lived briefly in a city known for its quality spraypaint, I clicked on Oaxaca to see what was there.  I was surprised to see that many of the pieces I'd taken pictures of myself were also there on the website, like this one:

(this one is my rendering of the same stuff you can find on theirs.  Don't want to step on any digital toes.)

On the left side of the page, you get links to other websites dedicated to street art.  And if you follow the blog regularly, you get a new update just about every day.  Usually they put up images, but occasionally they share a video, like this one, which went up a few days ago:

BIG BANG BIG BOOM - the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

This video is all over the internet.  And now, it's here, too.  The Italian artist who created it worked on it for a year or more, and at least part of it was filmed in Montevideo and Buenos Aires during a South American tour which lasted several months.  Definitely take the time to let it load and watch the whole thing.  From my perspective, it's the little details which make it superb.  The audio, the flashes of pedestrians, the interaction with the urban landscape.  All of that led me to watch it a couple of times already.

The internet, almost completely unfettered by the borders that confine us geographically, can provide endless glimpses into foreign culture.  More than ever, people can experience international culture in ways limited only by their tenacity in seeking it out.  Type any concept in the world into a search engine, and chances are, somebody has already put it online. Sometimes you just get a few lines of text and some lousy pictures, and other times you find a site well geared to showcase the material it's there to represent.  Now that you know they're out there, maybe you'll find some time to play around on Arte Callejero and Blu's website as well.

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