Graffiti as a fighting tool

The public space is full of signs and symbols. As we walk the streets of our city we can observe a multitude of images that we commonly identify: signs, posters, signals, advertisements… these usually have a clear message about what we have to do in urban space.

The different symbols and signs help us to embody the city, to delimit and define it. Armando Silva approaches the city as a product of the elaboration of a social-citizen imaginary, and not only under the socio-economic premise. The city is a scenario of images and discourses that emerge from the institutions and from the inhabitants who reside in it.

It is in the space where multiple meanings are given and where the city is configured. It is the people who generate identity in the spaces, through their discourses, their actions and the practices and meanings that are created in them. It is, therefore, important to highlight the symbolic value that the subject assigns to the space.

Graffiti and definition

Graffiti can be defined or understood as a form of free painting, which is mostly done illegally in generally urban spaces, which is a transgression of the established. As I see this phenomenon, graffiti emerges as a counter-hegemonic movement, although in terms of its origin we can find different theories.

If we define graffiti as the simple expression of inscribing something on a wall, we must go back to ancient civilizations, where these graffiti were known as graffiti. Both the Romans and the Egyptians used to write on the walls of the city or large palaces, their experiences or future predictions.

However, the origin of graffiti can be found in the late 1960s in New York City, specifically in the Bronx, a neighborhood where African-American and Latino immigrants lived. Those who were there lived in conditions of high poverty and violence. These reasons led most of the young people of that time to develop a series of cultural expressions around social criticism, and which would become part of their identity.

Graffiti is related to the idea of graffiti or graphic expression because one of its main characteristics is that it is always done in a graphic and visual way. In general, graffiti does not follow artistic rules other than the same freedom of expression that remains at the author’s discretion. This is why they are very varied; some are really complex and are considered true works of art, while others are simple phrases written with some “violence” or disorder on the walls.

Its essence is to change and evolve, so it is also seen as a form of dissemination seeking to be a visual attraction of high impact. It is said that graffiti is seen as part of a revolutionary and rebellious urban movement; especially if we take it to graffiti that has a connotation or critical message towards politics.

Graffiti is composed through text, content and social opinion, thus forming a visual communication. Therefore, there are 3 types of graffiti. First we have the Art graffiti that was extracted from the “hip-hop” of the 70’s and 80’s that consists of the name of the artist can be expressed in three different ways:

Tag: Written in a unique and personalized style that can be understood as the signature of the “writer”.
Throw up: This comprises letters, words or a list of names, and two colors are generally used.
Piece or Piece: Which is the most elaborate, in this three colors are used and sometimes it takes several days to finish it completely.

Public graffiti

Where it is said that the slogans start from the opinion through the range of political problems such as environmental concerns, feminism, state policies, international relations, etc. But all share the fact that they want to express to others in a natural way, their way of seeing things.

Private graffiti

This is the type of graffiti that is done in the bathrooms, that is, on the walls, doors, or mirrors that are found in the bathrooms. In this style there are times when it contains drawings, words, including poetry, phrases or personal reflections.

Graffiti is based on a cultural protest and in this we can find different branches, not all seek to give the same message, there are many who like to paint pieces, others are dedicated to painting on trains, which are mostly private property.

We understand that, despite the fact that studies are not clear on where to temporarily locate the origin of graffiti, they are a key element in the development of African American identity. Despite the fact that its main characteristic was illegality and the challenge to the logics of the neoliberal city, graffiti has evolved and in some cases we can say that it has been integrated into these logics.

Graffiti in turn is a communicative element. Graffiti appears in the streets, it breaks into the urban space with the purpose of saying something. In a certain sense, it is a form of clandestine communication that tries to persuade others or to sit down a voice of protest.


Graffiti emerged as a source of struggle, of protest, of criticism. Graffiti is the element of rebellion against individualization, against public space, against power, against reason. Graffiti isn’t just painted on the wall, it has a discourse, it has an intention, it has a form and above all it generates consequences. These paintings on the wall do not leave anyone indifferent. They shake consciences, and this is where the social sciences must intervene.

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