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Don't remove graffiti

To Flex, another graffiti artist down. Another one.

We don't know everything that's going on. No one does. Anger, despair and noise are not good friends of understanding. It will probably take us some time to understand the transformations that are happening right now. It could take years to conceive them, and years more to accept them. The confrontation seems to escalate between those who know and sense the change and those who refuse to allow the arrival of the new days. And although history always knows how to make its way, a prolonged and collective exercise of attentive observation could be fundamental so that the miserable stillness does not triumph again among us.

For this reason, I recommend not erasing the graffiti that have appeared in Transmilenio stations. Not only can they be very useful for the reconciliation process that -sooner or later- will have to come, but it will also allow a strategic and thoughtful use of public resources.

If desired, each graffiti in Transmilenio stations could become a pedagogical moment and instance. In that sense, erasing them would be a lost opportunity. Given the nature of these inscriptions, which reflect and synthesize the thoughts, emotions and beliefs of anonymous individuals, graffiti could be the beginning of a conversation that has been too long in coming. I imagine rulers and authorities (even police officers) perusing each one of them and allowing themselves to size up the immense space that fits between each of their words and letters. It is possible that during these moments of examining the opinion of others, the observer can capture the emotional instant (like someone taking a photograph) that led someone to paint that graffiti. An exercise of understanding (surely distressing and painful; no one is comfortable being called a bastard or a murderer) that will decipher -in part- the depth and infection of neighboring wounds and, of course, one's own.

In addition, leaving the graffiti for a while as it is, will also allow thousands of people who use the transport service daily, to mature their opinion about the content of those inscribed words and letters. A collective experiment in social reflection not to be underestimated. A free school of reading comprehension of others. A public system of mirrors.

On the other hand, it should be noted that these graffiti do not affect -in practice- the operation of the stations; something that questions their hasty categorization as damage to public property. In fact, there is no evidence of deterioration in service provision due to the appearance of graffiti (Transmilenio is so aware of this that some months ago it invited graffiti artists to a successful program of artistic intervention developed in its own stations). On the other hand, it would affect the system (and in the long term the users) if large sums of public resources were invested to "clean" the infrastructure, thus affecting the basic economy of the service: the fare. These sums of money could be used to buy more buses with clean technologies or to carry out citizen culture campaigns.

In fact, erasing graffiti would not be strategic either, considering that it could be perceived as a reaction or censorship, which would encourage many to repaint the stations. Thus generating a vicious circle -almost a game- that would waste billions of pesos. Over and over again.

For years, many have asserted, without equivocation, that much of our problems lie in our inability to listen to ourselves. It is likely that before that we should start with something simpler: seeing each other. Accepting that the presence of others also occupies a place in the world: a space that must be respected, valued and understood. Perhaps graffiti are simply artifacts of memory that serve the basic purpose of reminding us that others also exist.

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