It has become clear that in South America street art will be the primary form of protest, ever since the revolutionary murals were painted by artists like Diego Rivera and Jose Orozco, However, street art has come a long way, and many of its forms are forbidden in many places. Yet the relationship between the people in need of a voice and the ability of the artists among them to make the walls speak broke many rules and in many cities of South America, street art is embraced, respected, even encouraged. Versatile in style and unique in content, it spreads throughout the whole continent, creating a united and deeply particular art scene so tightly bonded with its culture, tradition, history and people. In countries like Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, entire cities are urban artworks. Scroll down and check out the 10 Street Art Destinations in South America.
On various occasions, the capital of Chile has been declared as one of the world’s best cities to see street art in. Known for its particular artistic style, Santiago is home to the works of many internationally famous street artists, like Inti Castro or Mambo among many others. Santiago is divided into districts, called “barrios” in Spanish, and some of them represent true street art havens - the most recommended ones are Bellavista, featuring some Pixel Art pieces, Brasil, and Lastarria, where you can find works by Roa, for example. Artists like Sofrenia, Agotok, Above, Fisek, even Shepard Fairey have all contributed to the colorful art scene of the city. But that’s just the beginning, as it is really hard to find a wall or a corner in Santiago that is not covered in the most brilliant works of street art.
Moving up North to Colombia, we find ourselves in Bogota, one of the fastest evolving street art scenes in the world. We have already talked about the city’s vibrant walls, so here we will try to highlight major neighborhoods housing some amazing pieces. The first one is definitely La Candelaria, located in the center, and its Calle 26 (26th Street), the very heart of street art scene. Along with Chapinero, the area became alive through the works of many local and international artists, such as Toxicomano, Stinkfish, Guache, Fintan Magee, Vhils and even Banksy. Bogota, a city with a long history, plenty of cause for social commentary and a large number of buildings that just scream to be painted, surely provides inspiration for street artists that will not dry out anytime soon.
That Cocha, short for Bolivian city of Cochabamba, cares about the works it carries on its walls, demonstrates the Bienal de Arte Urbano, a festival of urban art held there, you’ll guess, every two years. The event has placed Cochabamba among the best places to see authentic street art in Bolivia, but also South America in general. Just recently we wrote about yet another piece popping up in the city, and they keep coming up. Other than locals like Puriskiri and Moxz, Cochabamba is home to the works of many artists from neighboring countries and all over the world, such as Bastardilla, Charquipunk, Decertor, Parvo, Mexist and Blu. The third edition of the BAU festival, which had its premiere in 2011, saw 30 local and international artists paint the city in a more than successful manner.
Perhaps not as famous as Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, but the Brazilian island city of Florianopolis offers an incredible variety of street artworks and murals that should definitely be mentioned. The place seems to be an enormous art venue showcasing works by prominent local artists like Vejam and Rizo, but most of all Valdi Valdi, whose murals can be seen almost everywhere. It would appear that the city’s most painted area is Lagoa. It’s not just walls - street art is covering trash bins, highway overpasses and entire buildings, and more than often you can see artists paint live, giving a certain sense of freedom.
Although street art is prohibited in Quito, Ecuador’s capital - we’re also talking jail time threatening street artists - “no wall is white”. This colorful city, located high up in the Andes mountain range at around 2,800 meters above sea level, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, declared as such for its rich history and culture. Quito is also home to some of the world’s largest murals, and just recently, a massive, two-kilometer wall was offered to street artists for painting. A variety of works can be found in areas like Floresta, Guápulo, Monteserrín and La Mariscal, featuring works by locals such as Apitatán, Skipy, Bego, Mo, and Crispo. It is often said in Quito that the city tells its story on the walls, as many of these murals contain quotes, sayings, and socio-political messages.
In April 2015, you might have heard the news that murals are disappearing across the Peruvian capital of Lima. First, there was the mural of revolutionary Tupac Katari, and then another piece covered in yellow paint. The color seemed familiar to the locals, and it turned out to be the same one of Mayor Luis Castaneda’s political party. According to him, Lima’s colorful murals do not belong in the city’s historic center and are therefore to be removed, which caused an uproar in the artistic communities across the country. While many of the artworks still stand still on the walls of Lima, there is still a serious threat of their destruction, and many social media campaigns have been fighting for months to keep them safe.
Apart from Sao Paulo, which we mentioned in our other Top 10, Rio de Janeiro could be considered as another one of Brazil’s street art paradises. Interestingly enough, street art was legalized back in 2009, and since then, the city simply turned out to be one giant storyteller through the colorful murals done by an incredible number of very famous local and international artists. Let’s just remember how the city spoke its mind during the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the amazing Women are Heroes project by the even more amazing JR, which had the city’s female resident’s faces pop up all over the place. Rio’s Santa Marta, Jardim Botânico and Santa Theresa are only some of the areas covered in street art, mostly made by the country’s very best street artists.
If we want to talk about one of the places that are crucial for the trademark revolutionary murals of Southern American nations, Nicaragua and its capital Managua would definitely be it. For decades, these people would use murals to express their points of views, and more than three hundred of them were created by the Nicaraguan and international artist brigades since the 1979 Sandinista Revolution. Back in the day, the government supported murals as art forms, and people saw them as celebratory. With the arrival of graffiti, things became slightly intolerant, although you can certainly see many initiatives across the city, in which street artists engage with the community in order to create works of art and speak their minds together.
Mini Berlin by the seaside: that is how The Guardian described the city of Valparaiso in Chile, often called Valpo. Imagine the most colorful place on earth, and add some vibrant urban artworks to that. The city even endorses graffiti, for example, as long as they’re of creative nature, and the street art lovers are so serious about it that there is even an official website dedicated to it. There are five distinguished street art districts in Valparaiso: Barrio Puerto, Cerro Alegre, with lots of local and artists from countries nearby, Cerro Carcel, Van Buren and Cerro Polanco, known for hosting Graffiti festivals. It is a miracle if you see an unpainted surface in this adorable city, and if you want the full experience, you can always take the tour of the city - it is very comprehensive!
Finally, we end our tour in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. Many of the murals you will see there are of political nature; when Hugo Chavez, their beloved president, died in 2013, the whole city turned into an enormous showcase of his portraits, colorful and vivacious just like his nation. Like in many countries of South America, most of these murals carry straightforward messages, usually talking about the current situation, making demands or condemning the government. Because of its many cultures, Caracas also sees many murals showing solidarity with other Latin American countries. Some of the areas popular because of street art are Plaza Bolivar, La Pastora, Bellas Artes, 23 de Enero, El Valle.
For a trip around the world, take a look at our 10 Best Cities for Street Art here!