Castaneda irks the art community, and others

22 March 2015

Lima’s new mayor, Luis Castañeda Lossio, keen to reverse projects associated with his predecessor Susana Villarán, has run into fierce criticism in the last two weeks, especially among the artistic community. It all started with his campaign to erase the street art created when Villarán was mayor. Ten days ago, teams were dispatched to cover over murals with yellow paint. Yellow is the colour associated with Castañeda’s party, Solidaridad Nacional.

Among the first murals to go was one of Túpac Amaru. The reaction against this in social media was immediate. As the relentless campaign continued, the clamour in defence of art became louder, not just through social media but in some cases through street protests. Castañeda then decided to backtrack, saving some murals, notably those depicting the celebrated composer and performer Chabuca Granda.

Not content with painting over murals, Castañeda then removed the flowers planted by the Villarán administration in Lima’s central plaza, again raising angry voices in response. He was accused of lacking any sort of plan to promote culture in the city. Then, having signed an agreement with ART-Lima for an art fair due to take place this week, a large number of the best-known artists refused to take part. This forced ART-Lima to backtrack on their agreement with the municipality so as to salvage the event.

Another issue that rankled with the arts community was the decision to have the annual gastronomic MISTURA event at the Parque de la Exposición. This is where the Lima Art Museum (MALI) is located. Closure of the park for at least three months would mean that the Museum will not be able to operate, forcing it to cancel a number of important exhibitions and to postpone the long-awaited reopening of the main art collection after a decade-long project to redevelop its second floor.

A further cause of public resentment has been the decision to cancel a project to renovate the area along the River Rímac in Central Lima and to create a riverside park. Instead, Catañeda wants to build a flyover for the Avenida 28 de Julio. This is seen as just another attack on Villarán’s legacy and part of a relentless effort to cover the city with cement. Plans to cut down all the trees along the Avenida Salaverry were only stopped by the public outcry they aroused. His opponents say that the mayor’s real interest is to improve the possibilities for embezzlement and corruption.

 

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