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Cuenca Street Art

Cuenca Street Art

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Graffiti is ubiquitous. You’ve seen it.  Crude public bathroom scratchings, quickly sprayed tags on underpasses, scrawled political slogans suggesting revolt and revolution, artistic but quickly applied stencils and posters, and elaborate multi-colored murals.

We’ve seen it in every city we’ve visited: covering the trains in Naples, Italy; on the outer walls of Rome; throughout the San Telmo area in Buenos Aires; and, perhaps most sadly, too often on beautifully-preserved historical architecture.

Cuenca Ecuador Street Art

They eyes have it

Long an underground industry, most graffiti art was traditionally painted under the cover of night, often involving illegally-obtained supplies and a healthy dose of trespassing. In recent years, graffiti art has entered the mainstream, embraced by the hip-hop community and even showcased in museums of modern art.

Cuenca Ecuador Street Art


Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) street artist, Banksy, has had his work sold for millions of dollars. Of course, this new acceptance has done nothing to dissuade budding street artists from honing their craft on every available wall in their neighborhoods.

For years, cities around the world have waged war against graffiti and the individuals who deface public and private property. Perhaps most famously, New York City has since the 1980’s chased a graffiti-free goal on its subway cars, spending millions of dollars to eradicate any hint of spray paint.

Cuenca Ecuador Street Art

More and more, however, cities around the world are trying a different approach — working with groups of street artists or graffiti gangs to attempt to ensure a level of quality of art and prevent vandalism. Rome, who’s history with scrawled messages on walls dates back to Pompeii, has begun to provide legal spaces for street art.

Similarly,  Cuenca, Ecuador enacted an ordinance regarding street art in 2013.  The city, working with approximately 60 street artists looking for an outlet for their craft, agreed to sanction the artist’s murals and even supply the paint to create them. 

The artists agreed to assist the City with covering unsanctioned street art also with paint supplied by the City.

Street Artists at Work

Street Artists at Work

Finished Similar Piece - Cuenca Street Art

Finished Similar Piece – Cuenca Street Art

A meandering walk through Cuenca will present you with an amazing array of street art (certainly not all of it legal, but most with redeeming qualities).

Street Art

The array of different styles by different artists is impressive.

Street Art


Cuenca Street Art Rat

So what do you think? Is graffiti simply vandalism, or street art? Leave a comment!

Here are some related articles about travel in Ecuador that you might enjoy:

Scott Simmerman

Saturday 20th of November 2021

I think that you show the high end of the muralists in Cuenca and then ask if graffiti is a good thing. What you do NOT seem to show is the absolute vandalism that occurs, with the painting of historic church doors, rock structures like the Puente Roto (The Broken Bridge) and brick walls all over the community. If you look up the term "Vandalism" in Wikipedia, you will see that using paint to deface public and private property is by far the most easily understood aspect of it.

The tagging of walls in historic places like Cuenca is these people peeing in public, trying to mark their territories for no good reason. One minute with a paint can can cost thousands of dollars to (try to) restore to its original condition in the case of a stone wall, for example.

These taggers are encouraged to actually learn to do murals and real street art by so many in the community. The murals like you show are wonderful and there must be 1000+ such works in Cuenca. The spraying of initials or whatever on someone's property is NOT something that most people in the community accept; the homeowners and business owners simply tire of repairing the damage when the government seems not to be concerned.

It is sad. We should be able to come up with better solutions to keep our wonderful city of Cuenca more impressive to our valuable tourists.

Lieurene Tran

Tuesday 12th of May 2015

I just absolutely love street art, I would literally look for them no matter where I go. I think it is a great way for people to connect with the artists through their beautiful work. I would love to see them in action though, it would be amazing to see the process

Vicky and Buddy

Monday 11th of May 2015

I love that the city and artists are working together to beautify the city. Because it really is beautiful!

RaW | Ramble and Wander

Monday 11th of May 2015

Seems to me that as long as it is sanctioned by the local authority, it's street art. Otherwise it's simply vandalism; although some graffiti are better than supposedly some street arts that I've seen. But then again, art is very subjective :)


Monday 11th of May 2015

Wow. Seriously beautiful work there. That first image of the woman with the butterfly around her eye is like embedded in my mind now!