Ana Lee is a professional neighbor. Take care of the Coruña neighborhood of Monte Alto as if it were your life in it. It is part of a collective composed of a dozen women between 30 and 60 years old who altruistically tries to beautify this working area in which in the last five years some thirty artists have settled. His latest contribution has been a seven-meter mural that presides over the Adelaida Muro staircase, the hall of this great house of 30,000 tenants. It is not the classic work commissioned to a local artist as the one who decorates hundreds of neighborhoods in the world and presages the gentrification of the area. It is a mosaic created by the neighbors. Some get the paint, others the utensils, there are some that carry coffee. Ignacio Fernández, who lives on the same staircase, lent tools … The mural belongs to everyone and belongs to nobody. "A poet gave some verses that adorn the wall. They are unsigned, "explains Ana Lee, also an artist and costume consultant, who" by her philosophy "of life takes the stage name of Bruce Lee.
The idea was born from a proposal that the social educator Pilar Casals makes to the City Council of A Coruña. It was based on Brazilian Oasis experiment, an initiative of a son of Galician immigrants in which the neighborhood coexistence serves to transform neighborhoods. In the first phases of the game Oasis the neighbors gather and dance and embrace. The sensory and affective part is fundamental to generate links. "We try to transform reality, but we start from what already works, and from there we created an oasis in Monte Alto," explains Casals or Pili, as everyone calls her, who acted as art director with Ana Lee. "You are from the neighborhood where your children are born. Mine is 14 years old. I'm 17 here, "says the artist.
The mosaic is a representation of the history and the present of Monte Alto. Fernanda Pardo, who is about to turn 60 and has five children, placed several tiles on the wall to create what she called the house of cona (pussy in Galician). "Where there are military, there are whores. It is a tribute to them. With what they earned they fed the neighborhood. It was called the bread of cona"Explains the group's storyteller.
The mural was finished on two weekends. The process was as important as the result. "The energy that was created those days was brutal," says Ana Lee. A hundred neighbors joined the act. There were musicians, a magician to entertain the children, the houses closest to the staircase were open for people to use the bathroom. Carlos, shopkeeper of A Nosa Tenda, gave away some empanadas. "They were days of camaraderie," adds the 44-year-old from La Coruña. The atmosphere was similar to the festivities of a town.
Retaliated street art
Before the Civil War, Monte Alto was a neighborhood of anarchists. "There were those who put names of flowers to their children. It was full of people from the CNT [Confederación Nacional del Trabajo]", Illustrates Pardo. He could hardly plant battle. "In two days they shot a lot of people in Punta Herminia[thecliffnearthe[elacantiladocercanoalaTower of Hercules]"Recalls Pardo. "Monte Alto has always been repressed," says Daniel Remeseiro, who embodies the essence of the neighborhood. Retired photographer and lifelong unionist, he opened his painting and engraving studio in Monte Alto six years ago. With what he sells he does not give to cover expenses. He does not care, he is focused on the social work. Organize exhibitions with NGOs to raise money. "Instead of traveling, I paint", describes his life at 68 years old. "The art does not give to live, it gives to drink", affirms without sarcasm.
Pili requested the collaboration of local artists to make the mosaic. Two were involved: Emil Gireau and Samuel Castro. The first made a sculpture, the second approached with students to draw some xardas (mackerel) that "flee from the sea because of the waste". Monte Alto has become the neighborhood of artists. There are about thirty bass converted into studios. "The initiative of the mural has nothing to do with us. There is no conflict, they are just parallel things, "says the painter Jano Muñoz, who has been organizing Estudios Abertos since 2016, some days supported by the City Council where art is brought closer to the neighbors and the rest of people from A Coruña. "The idea is not commercial. It serves to make pineapple between us and to open us to the neighborhood ", explains Muñoz, the painter who has more name and who has joined the rest of his colleagues, previously scattered.
The next step: a school
The next project of the Oasis Monte Alto collective will be completed in June at the public school Víctor López Seoane, which takes the name of an eminent Galician naturalist of the 19th century, specialist in insects and discoverer of lizards. With the participation of the students, they will design another mural inspired by their discoveries. The previous one was completed last year. "The movement is still alive. This is a social rather than artistic project, "says Pili, who has given several talks at the university to explain how the Oasis methodology, playful but very serious, unites the community and transforms the reality of the neighborhoods.
Mar Rodríguez, a professor of Social Education at the Universidade da Coruña, who has taken the Oasis experience to her classes, also worked on the mural. "I have a student who has done the TFG [trabajo final de grado] of the project of the mural ", tells this madrileña that of first speaks in Galician. There are times when he takes his students to the steps and teaches classes there. Interestingly, one of them is Fernanda Pardo. "I'm older than the dean," and he laughs. "I suspended the subject given by Mar", and laughs harder.
The neighborhood forms a peninsula in the north of A Coruña. Very open to the sea, it is at the mercy of the wind, which consumes Pardo's cigarettes before it hardly gives him five puffs. They have an illustrious son: Luis Suárez, the only Spaniard who has won a gold ball. "I keep a picture of him that he dedicated to my mother," presumes Pardo. Now there is another soccer player named Luis who has a home here. Luisinho, lateral of the Dépor between 2013 and 2018. "I have been told that he bought one of those floors for a million euros", says the shopkeeper while giving the group a pack of six beers for the next meeting.
The Oasis game was created in the early 2000s in the Elos Institute, a non-profit Brazilian organization. It is a methodology that provides tools to the neighbors to transform neighborhoods with their own resources. "We live in a culture of apparent scarcity. It is what they have told us. We turn it around and create a culture of abundance, "he explains by telephone from Stoo Paulo Rodrigo Rubido, one of the founders of Oasis, which has been launched in 50 countries and has improved 834 communities.
The game has a very visible playful part. The neighbors gather and dance, sing and embrace while contributing ideas on how to improve the neighborhood. "It is something superserio", says Rubido, son of a coruñesa and a vigués. "I was up to the dancing hat," confesses Mar Rodríguez, the university professor who is part of the Oasis Monte Alto group. "But then you realize that it generates links, builds trust," he adds.
The Elos Institute is responsible for training workers who attend the new Oasis projects that are generated in the neighborhoods. "Some people think that this type of movement involves a sacrifice, that some suffer for the benefit of others. We have to change this thinking, "says one who deliberately behaves optimistically to go against pessimism.
The situation of Monte Alto, 15 minutes from the Plaza de María Pita and surrounded by beaches, makes it an attractive place. As a result of a controversial political decision, an asylum was demolished at the beginning of the century so that these luxury flats could be built on the resulting site. The devout Adelaida Muro, who gives the name to the stairway, bequeathed this residence to the needy at the end of the 19th century. "This was for the neighbors, for the people," says Pardo angrily and pulls out another cigarette. And the conversation changes to the social responsibility of culture.
This news, sponsored by the project FeliZiudad, from Renault, It has been prepared by a collaborator of EL PAÍS.