Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Venezuela: Homophobes deface mural, LGBT advocates push back

This comes from our friends at Venezuela's Union Afirmativa and at Spain's Dos Manzanas - and has a somewhat happy ending:

Earlier in the month, the locality of Chacao in Venezuela celebrated the annual "Cooltura Hip Hop" festival with full support from the Chacao Mayor's Office.  The event drew hip hop artists throughout Venezuela and, as part of the festival, a number of local street graffiti artists were also granted permission to design street murals that promoted a better living environment for the residents of Chacao.

The concept chosen by graffiti artist Darient was "tolerance" and, with that in mind, she painted the mural pictured above in which a woman of Afro-Venezuelan background asks "Tolerate?" and a pink sign below the image of two men kissing states "Tolerate!".

Reaction against the mural came fast: According to Dos Manzanas, local church leaders spread rumors that the Mayor's Office had asked the artist to come up with a new concept and to remove the image.  Darient, the mural's author, denied any of this was true but joined local LGBT organizations and leaders in asking Emilio Graterón, the Mayor of Chacao, to publicly back the mural.  "The situation represented an enormous challenge for the Chacao Mayor's Office," said Dos Manzanas, "It would be paradoxical not to tolerate a mural that precisely promoted the value of tolerance".

The Mayor's Office responded on November 19th and said that the mural would remain standing as it was created. It was exactly the next day that the mural was defaced with black spray paint covering the image of the two men kissing and black lines covering the pink sign that says "Tolerate!" (see above).

Near the mural, a wall was also spray-painted to deliver a clear message: "Muerte al Maricón" (Death to the faggot).

This elicited the first public response by the Chacao Mayor... through Twitter: "I reiterate my position" Mayor Graterón twitted, "I condemn the vandalism to which the mural of tolerance was subjected; Dialogue is the medium, it's [about] respect for one another".

The next day he released a lengthy statement on the issue titled "Public Morals and Tolerance" in which he defended the mural. Unfortunately, perhaps in an attempt to assuage critics from the fundamentalist religious rights, in the statement he also urges people to respect homosexuals in the same way Christ had extended his charitable love towards Mary Magdalene, "the most famous prostitute in town", and also invokes John Paul II in stating that the Vatican leader did not consider homosexuality in itself to be a sin - just the sexual acts between members of the same gender.

Sigh. So much for mayoral valor.

Anyway, DARIENT herself went back to the mural she had created and wrote "Su amor no daña, your hate does!!! - EN RECUPERACIÓN" (Their love doesn't create damag, your hate does!!! - IN REPAIR).

Sunday, a group of LGBT rights organizations and advocates, led by Unión Afirmativa, called for a community gathering to accompany DARIENT as she repaired her mural.

This time the graffiti artist didn't write the word "Tolerate!" on her mural.  Instead, she expanded the image of the two men kissing and wrote "Respect!" under it.

No word on whether the Office of the Mayor is pursuing any leads on those who might have defaced the mural or wrote the death threats on nearby walls.

Below, an image of Darient with a friend next to the repaired mural. Thank you DARIENT!

Other sources:
  • LGBT Support for DARIENT Facebook photo album #1 here
  • LGBT Support for DARIENT Facebook photo album #2 here
NOTE: According to Wikipedia, Chacao is one of five municipalities that make up the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.


Anonymous said...

I thought Venezuela had become majorly tolerant of all things gay? That, at least, is what I'm getting from all my friends who are from there.

Blabbeando said...

If only. The government itself under Hugo Chavez is not actively involved in anti-gay fear-mongering or persecution but it also far from lifting a finger when it comes to backing LGBT rights. There has been little movement on LGBT rights issues under Chavez, despite what some of his supporters may argue, and that probably won't change anytime soon. Having said that, this is all about Chacao and its mayor and, while I am glad that he seems to support the mural, some of his comments leave a lot to be desired as well.

libhom said...

Here in the US, it is common for Christian religious extremists to deface atheist signs and billboards. The result is to get the messages of those adverts to much larger and broader audiences. As reprehensible as the bigotry is behind the heterosexist acts of vandalism, I strongly suspect that the bigots' efforts will backfire in this case too.