The municipal government of Granada has ordered the removal of 47 portraits of women that were posted on the walls of two city buildings to honor “the strength and perseverance of Nicaraguan women.”
The portraits were posted by two U.S. Peace Corps volunteers as part of the Inside Out Project, a global social art movement where activists around the world display portraits of people to reflect a societal issue in that country, says Kelli Stam, who oversaw the project in Nicaragua.
While the content of the photos has created controversy in countries such as Iran, Russia, Tunisia, Mexico and Venezuela, the fact that they were posted at all was a problem for authorities in Granada, which claimed the posters violated architectural regulations in place as part of the city’s aging effort to be declared an UNESCO world heritage site.
“We have regulations here in Granada to protect the colonial appearance of the city. Posters cannot be posted on the outside of buildings; the photos were not allowed because they were publicity,” said Damaris Ramirez, of Granada’s municipal historic preservation office.
Ramirez said all buildings must have their paint colors approved, and even chain businesses must comply with regulations governing colonial facades.
While Stam posted the posters with no plans to take them down, within a week the owners of the two buildings said they received a municipal notices ordering the removal of the art. They were taken down two weeks later.
“I liked the project and wanted to support it, but within a week the municipal government told us to take it down,” said Dieter Stadler, director of Casa de los Tres Mundos.
Stadler said he didn’t ask permission to post the portraits because the posters weren’t commercial and he thought “it was my right to do that.”
The posters were pasted on the building’s walls in celebration of Mothers’ Day, May 30, in a ceremony that featured many of the women whose faces appeared in the mural. U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Phyllis Powers also came to the inauguration of the art project.
Stam says the aim of the project was to showcase everyday women who are a driving force in the country.
“Women represent the heart and soul of the country- they are the ones putting food on the table, teaching their children and leading their communities. This was a way to express our gratitude to them,” she says.