[Read Part 1]
I asked the Nicaraguan graffiti writers what had gone down, how Daniel Ortega came to be the most up man in Nicaragua. They explained that in one night, in a massive piece of political organizing, small groups of Ortega supporters across the country were handed cans of paint and got to work. Many were paid for the night’s work. For months, the international-style graffiti writers chuckled as they told me, paint stores were completely sold out of black and red spray paint — kind of a bummer, since black is one of the few quality colors.
The efforts of the one-night writers were hideous, as you might expect from first-timers armed with spray paint, and they were prolific to a degree that is difficult to convey without being in Nicaragua in person. Somehow, the fakeness of these slogans as a cri de couer rang through as well. These paid vandals writing the name of the president and his party across private homes and storefronts bookended the soaring, idealistic, colorful murals of the early 1980s with a chest-beating, sad coda.
Nicaragua, it should be noted, is a relaxed place, and a pretty safe one. As a society, they’ve clearly made a choice to emulate their tranquil eco-tourist mecca neighbor to the south, Costa Rica, over their neighbors to the north — El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, where imported (deported, really) American gangs MS-13 and 18th Street run rampant. They’re around in Nicaragua, but probably on a lesser scale than in any American major city.
Some of the Revolutionary murals hang on, and a few are being restored. A vintage one at the Army base in the mountain city of Esteli — the mural capital of Nicaragua, for sure — has aged beautifully. The energy of the international graffiti movement is catching on since the year 2000, however, and writers from each Central American nation are up in Managua, along with plenty of tourists. A few pics from the trip are below. [Read Part 1]