The Madrileño

ImageAt some point during my gypsy period (the five-years I was in KH construction), traveling around the Dominican Republic (DR), my roommates and I met “The Madrileño”. His real name was lost somewhere along the way, since we only used the descriptive nickname to refer to him, but the fact that he was the nicest ride to pick us up (twice!) as we made our way hitch-hiking around DR, and that the drove like a crazed lunatic, have remained clear in our memories.

While we were in the truck he had a cigarette in his hand, (he was kind enough to offer us one, we declined), and the other he mostly kept resting on the windowsill as he steered, and told us his story. From what we pieced together, it was a bit difficult to understand him at times between the cigarette in his mouth and his thick Madrid accent, he was surveying DR for a privatized Spanish electric company that would later buy out the existing government provided system.

“Do you drive”, he asked me as I clutched the dash and back of the seat I was sitting in, effectively wedging myself between him and one of my roommates.

I looked at him with a blank, uncomprehending expression and ashen face.

“You keep checking the mirrors”, he explained, gesturing toward the rear view and side mirrors. I had been stealing furtive glances at them in an effort to foresee the bloody accident that I was sure was about to happen. After all, someone had to, because he sure wasn’t doing it as he dodged pot-holes and other vehicles as we hurtled down the highway at what felt like autobahn speeds.

“Uh, yeah, I drive”, I said, cringing as he missed another driver that was expressing his irritation by laying on his horn.

Twenty minutes later the three of us clumsily piled out of the truck, and tried to get our land legs back under us. We stopped at a nearby cafeteria to get something to drink and get a hold of ourselves. Then, we were on our way again.

For years afterward, hitching stories would always include the ride with “The Madrileño”. But, that was only one of the many rides we took during those years, and not the most interesting story to result from one…


Urban Graffiti in the Dominican Republic – A Little DR Street Art Lore

Urban graffiti art emerged in New York during the tumultuous 1970’s as a way to express urban culture. When the art form began to gain popularity in the 1980’s fewer artists exhibited their street art and it became a less common sight around the city. In more recent years, the form has again started to pop up in urban areas, once more adding a little color to city surfaces.

Dominican street artists have been strongly influenced by their New York predecessors, which can be seen in the styles they adopt in their graffiti art. These graffiti crews do their own spin on the NY tradition to express their own sociopolitical views and cultural perspectives. (See examples below).

When Christopher Columbus encountered Hispañola in 1492 there were an estimated 100,000 Taino Indians occupying the island. By 1570 that number had dwindled down to 500 due to illness, harsh treatment by colonists and other factors. Now, hardly any signs remain of the once trusting, hospitable and beautiful people depicted in this example of graffiti art.

One of the most famous graffiti crews in DR, The BNA Crew, had its start in 1979 when a group of neighborhood friends began to hang out together. The group’s work can now be seen on many walls, buildings and other structures in Santo Domingo, Santiago and other cities around the country, but back then it hadn’t developed into what it is now.

Manuel Luis “Dr. Mol” de Jesús del Carmen’s style is clearly seen in much of the crew’s graffiti repertoire. Manuel had an interest in art starting from a young age. He began to cultivate that interest when he studied drawing and calligraphy in school. Later, he furthered his art studies in the National School of the Arts located in Santo Domingo and then got a degree in illustrative advertising. All through his years of traditional art education Emanuel continued to hang out with his original crew of friends and never forgot his first love, graffiti.

Gregory “Great One” de Oleo, a prolific DR graffitist, became acquainted with Emanuel around this time, 2004, and together they and they formed the crew Airflow, which primarily used airbrush techniques in their graffiti. By the time they included Anderson “Kocko” Pérez into the group they had developed other techniques and, therefore, in 2009 decided to change the group’s name to what it is currently known as: the BNA Crew.

The famous quote, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it”, by German poet Bertolt Brecht, accompanies this work by the artist known as Dr. Mol and the BNA Crew.

When Blen, the crew’s president, moved to Puerto Rico they started to gain fame for their artistic talent and social commentary. They have since become well-respected members and pillars of the Hip-Hop/Graffiti subculture community, appearing on T.V. and radio programs and traveling to Germany, England, Singapore, the U.S. and other countries around the world, leaving pictorial statements. In recent years, the crew has expanded its portfolio to include sponsoring new artists breaking into the Hard-Core Metal and Hip-Hop scene.

The tags from these and other artists (including KD, Seyer, KP, Tuto Time, CRZ and many others) are visible all along DR’s streets and structures. So, the next time you are walking or driving along, take a look around and remember a bit of this urban graffiti lore. You might see a tag you recognize and an interesting specimen of street art that you’ve never noticed before.

References:

Microsoft Encarta Premium Encyclopedia; Graffiti Art; 2009

Watchtower Library; Dominican Republic–Still  Open to Discovery; Page 23; 1995

Facebook; Dominican Republic; BNA Graffiti Gallery; 2011

Facebook; Molecula Graffiti; 2011

Facebook; BNA Crew; 2011

Wix; Dr. Molecula; Biography